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In the Press, hy the same Author. 



Including AnaXyses of Aristotl^s Scientific Writings. 


I. The life of Ariatotle.— II. The Dawn of Science.— III. Ancient Science.— 
IV. Metaphysical and Scientific Methods.— V. Plato's Method.— VI. Aristotle's 
Method.— VII. His Physics, Meteorology, and Mechanical Problems.— VIII. His 
.Anatomy. — IX. His Physiology. — X. G^eneral Prindplee of Biology. — XI. Antici- 
pation of Modem Discoveries. — XII. Life and Mind. — XIII. On the Senses. — 
XIV. Memoiy, Sleep, Dreams, and Longevity.- XV. The History of Animals.— 
XVI. The Parts of Animals.— XVII. On Generation and Devolopm^t.— 


' ',' V < ^ A.t /' / 




I .: 







Ooeth^i hea/rtf which few knew, was as great as his intellect, which aJZ knew, 

Jung Stiluno. 







LOKDOK: T. lUOHAHnR, 87, akvat qcken stbkkt. 



^0 a Pmoxial 




There was, perhaps, some temerity in attempting a Life of 
Ooethe at a time when no German author had undertaken the 
task ; but the reception which my work has met with, even 
after the appearance of the biographies by ViehoflF and Schafer, 
is a justification of the temerity. The sale of thirteen 
thousand copies in England and Germany, and the sym- 
pathy generously expressed, not unmingled, it is true, with 
adverse and even angry criticism, are assurances that my 
labours were not wholly misdirected, however far they may 
have fallen short of their aim. For the expressions of sym- 
pathy, public and private, I cannot but be grateful ; and I 
have done my best to profit by criticism even when it was 
most hostile. 

I wish to make special mention of the assistance ten- 
dered me by the late Mr. Franz Demmler. Although a 
stranger to me, this accomplished student of Goethe kindly 
volunteered, amid many and pressing avocations, to re-read 
my book with the express purpose of annotating it ; and he 
sent me several sheets of notes and objections, all displaying 
the vigour of his mind and the variety of his reading. Some 
of these I was glad to use ; and even those which I could not 



agree with or adopt, were always carefully considered. On 
certain points our opinions were diametrically opposed ; but it 
was always an advantage to me to read criticisms so frank 
and acute. 

The present edition is altered in form and in substance. 
It has been rewritten in parts, with a view not only of intro- 
ducing all the new material which several important publica- 
tions have furnished, but also of correcting and reconstructing 
it so as to make it more worthy of public favour. As there is 
little probability of any subsequent publication bringing to 
light fresh material of importance, I hope that this recon- 
struction of my book will be final. 

With respect to the use I have made of the materials at 
hand, especially of Goethe's Autobiography, I can but repeat 
what was said in the Preface to the First Edition : the 
Dichtung und Wahrheit not only wants the egotistic gar- 
rulity and detail which give such confessions their value, 
but presents great difficulties to a biographer. The main 
reason of this is the abiding inaccuracy of tone, which, far 
more misleading than the many inaccuracies oi fact, gives 
to the whole youthful period, as narrated by him, an as- 
pect so directly contrary to what is given by contem- 
porary evidence, especially his own letters, that an attempt 
to reconcile the contradiction is futile. If any one doubts 
this, and persists in his doubts after reading the first volume 
of this work, let him take up Goethe's Letters to the Countess 
von Stolberg, or the recently published letters to Kestner and 
Charlotte, and compare their tone with the tone of the 
Autobiography, wherein the old man depicts the youth as 
the old man saw him, not as the youth felt and lived. The 
picture of youthful follies and youthful passions cofhes 
softened through the distant avenues of years. The tur- 



bulence of a youth of genius is not indeed quite forgotten, 
but it is hinted with stately reserve. Jupiter serenely 
throned upon Olympus forgets that he was once a rebel with 
the Titans. 

When we come to know the real facts, we see that the Auto- 
biography does not so much misstate as understate ; we, who 
can "read between th6 lines," perceive that it errs more from 
want of sharpness of relief and precision of detail than from 
positive misrepresentation. Controlled by contemporary evi- 
dence, it furnishes one great source for the story of the early 
years ; and I greatly regret there is not more contemporary 
evidence to furnish more details. 

For the later period, besides the mass of printed testimony 
in shape of Letters, Memoirs, Keminiscences, etc., I have en- 
deavoured to get at the truth by consulting those who lived 
under the same roof with him, those who lived in friendly in- 
tercourse with him, and those who have made his life and 
works a special study. I have sought to acquire and to repro- 
duce a definite image of the living man, and not simply of the 
man as he appeared in all the reticences of print. For this 
purpose I have controlled and completed the testimonies of 
print by means of papers which have never seen the light, and 
papers which in all probability never wUl see the light — ^by 
means of personal corroboration, and the many slight details 
which are gathered from far and wide when one is alive to 
every scrap of authentic information and can see its signifi- 
cance ; and thus comparing testimony with testimony, com- 
pleting what was learned yesterday by something learned to- 
day, not unfrequently helped to one passage by details fur- 
nished from half a dozen quarters, I have formed the conclu- 
sions which appear in this work. In this difficult, and some- 
times delicate task, I hope it will be apparent that I have been 


guided by the desire to get at the truth, having no cause to 
serve, no partisanship to mislead me, no personal connexion to 
trammel my judgment. It will be seen that I neither deny, 
nor attempt to slur over, points which may tell against my 
hero. The man is too great and too good to forfeit our love, 
because on some points he may incur blame. 

Considerable space has been allotted to analyses and criti- 
cisms of Goethe's works ; just as in the life of a great Captain, 
much space is necessarily occupied by his campaigns. By these 
analyses I have tried to be of service to the student of Ger- 
man literature, as well as to those who do not read German ; 
and throughout it will be seen that pains have not been spared 
to make the reader feel at home in this foreign land. 

The scientific writings have been treated with what propor- 
tionately may seem great length ; and this, partly because 
science filled a large portion of Goethe's life ; partly, because, 
even in Germany, there was nothing like a full exposition of 
his aims and achievements in this direction. 

The Priory, North Bank, Regents ParJc. 
November 1863. 


Sooh Ifee <|ir0t.-1749 to 1765. 



Character and extent of Ooethe's claim to greatness. — His Ancestry. — Genealogical 
tables. — Goethe's fiither and mother. — What he derived from them . l 



Birth of Gk>ethe. — Character of the epoch. — Position of Frankfurt. — Moderate ele- 
vation of Goethe's social status. — Anecdotes. — Maternal tuition. — Hia love for 
his sister ComeUa. — His love of story-telling. — Grandmother and grandfether 
Textor. — Early compositions in Latin and German. — Character of Gk>ethe's 
precocity. — His school life . . . . . . 11 



Character not formed by circnmstances. — Early religions doubts awakened by the 
Lisbon earthquake. — Early symbolical representation of the soul's aspirations 
to the Deity. — The Seven Years' War. — Invention of little stories. — Occupation 
of Frankfurt by the French. — The French theatre. — Duel with Derones. — His 
fibrstplay ......... 20 



Departure of the French, and resumption of study. — The Polyglott romance. — Bib- 
lical studies. — Influence of Fraulein von Klettenberg. — Early love for Gretchen. 
— ^Disappointment. — Fascination exercised by Goethe ... 28 



Characteristics of the man to be traced in the moral lineaments of the child. — 
Characteristics of Goethe. — His many-sidedness. — His seriousness, formality, 
and rationality. — His impatient susceptibility .... 34 


gook ife« »Monl>.— 1766 to 1771. 




Goethe commences hia collegiate life at Leipsic. — ^Wearies of logic and jnrispra- 
dence. — ^Appearance in society. — Acquaintance with Fran Bdhme. — Literary 
society at the table d'h6te of Herr Schdnkopf. — Falls«in love with Anna Katha- 
rina Schdnkopf. — ^Description of Goethe in Horn's letters to Moors. — Composi- 
tion of " Die Laune des YerUebten". — Works of Gk>ethe an embodiment of his 
experiences. — Pranks and extravagances with Behrisch. — Composition of " The 
Fellow Sinners" . . . . •. 37 



Subjective and objective intellects. — ^Antagonism between the ideal and the real. — 
Objective character of Goethe's genius. — Concrete tendency in his works. — 
Comparison of Goethe with Shakspeare. — Moral toleration . . 51 



Goethe neglects his collegiate studies. — His love songs. — Joins Oeser's drawing 
dass. — Trip to Dresden. — Learns engraving. — Serious illness. — State of re- 
ligious doubt. — Eetums to Frankfurt ..... 65 



His reception at home. — Letters to K&thchen Schdnkopf. — ^Marriage of E&thchen 
with Dr. Kanne. — UnpleaBant relations with his £ftther. — Studies in alchemy. — 
Eeligion more prominently in his thoughts .... 59 



Goes to Strasburg university. — Description of his person. — Straeburg cathedral.— 
Various studies. — Disgust at the " Syst^me de la Nature". — Eaphael's cartoons. 
^ — Ominous pictures exhibited to Marie Antoinette. — Mystical and metaphysical 
studies. — Early tendency towards nature-worship. — Giordano Bruno. — Notes 
on Bayle's criticism. — Eemarkable comment on a chapter in Fabridus. — So- 
ciety at Strasburg. — Improvement in his demeanour. — Increased circle of 
Mends. — First meeting and friendship with Stilling. — Friendship with Franz 
Lerse. — Conquers his irritability and sensitiveness. — Two love poems. — 
Dancing at Strasburg. — Stoiy of Emilia and Lucinda the dancing-master's 
daughters ......... 65 



Goethe's German culture. — ^Acquaintance with Herder. — His opiniqn of Gk)ethe. — 
His influence. — Strange Introduction of Goethe to the Brion fiunily. — Frede- 
rika. — Goethe's letter. — Afllection of Goethe and Frederika. — Goethe obtains 
his doctor's degree. — Frederika's visit to Strasburg. — ^Effect of Shakspeare on 
Germany. — Goethe's oration on Shakspeare. — His tractate on German archi- 
tecture. — Parting with Frederika ..... 79 


8ook i^t diifb.— 1771 to 1775. 



Beception by his father. — Commencement of the Stonn and Stress period. — 
Goethe's reluctance to appear in print. — His anguish at having renounced 
Frederika. — Beasons why he did not marry her. — Hard work. — Johann Hein- 
rich Merck. — The Frankfurter Gelehrten Anzeigen. — Goethe's fondness for 
skating ......... 96 



Three versions of " G6tz". — Ghoethe's own account of the composition. — Character 
of GottMed with the Iron Hand. — " G5tz" a dramatic chronicle, not a drama. — 
Unlike Shakspeare in construction, in the presentation of character, and in the 
langpiage. — ^Its injurious influence on dramatic art. — Its originality denied by 
Hegel 105 



Wetzlar. — ^The Imperial Court of Justice, a Cherman chancery. — The Teutsche Haus. 
— The Bound Table and its knights. — Description of Goethe by Eestner. — His 
acquaintance with Gotter. — Connexion with the Gt^ttingen School. — Moral 
contest between individuals and Government. — Literary and philosophic insur- 
rection. — GK)ethe £ed]s in love with Charlotte Buff. — Eestner's engagement to 
Charlotte. — Jerusalem's unhappy passion. — Goethe's visit to Hdpfiier. — Melan- 
choly departure from Wetzlar . . . . 112 



Goethe interrogates &te whether he should become an artist. — Maximiliane von 
Laroche. — " Pater Brey" and " Satyros". — Studies at Frankfurt. — Be-writing 
" Gdtz von Berlichingen". — ^Publication of " Gotz". — ^Misrepresentation of Her- 
der's reception of the work. — Amusing offer of a bookseller. — Unrest and ex- 
travagancies of the age. — General want of £aith. — Letters to Kestner and Char- 
lotte. — Coquetting with suicide. — Suicide of Jerusalem. — Its effect on Goethe. 
— State of his mind. — ^Marriage of Charlotte to Eestner. — Marriage of Cornelia. 
— (joethe meditates a drama on Mahomet. — Marriage of Maximiliane Laroche 
with Brentano. — Dangerous intimacy. — Publication of " G5tter, Helden, and 
Wieland'.'. — First acquaintance with Karl August. — Composition of Wer- 
ther ......... 127 



Eestner's narrative of Jerusalem's suicide. — Sensation at Wetzlar. — Character of 
Werther. — Distinction between Werther and Goethe. — Wretched English trans- 
lation of " Werther". — Simplicity of the structure of the book. — Its prodigious 
effect. — Objections of Lessing. — Parody by Nioolai. — Nicolai at Werther's 
grave. — Enthusiasm of Zimmermann and Eotzebue. — Indignation of Eestner 
and Charlotte. — ^Goethe obtains their forgiveness. — Eestner's letter to Hen- 
nings ......... 145 




Marriage Lotteries. — ^Antoinette Gerock. — " M^moire" of Beanmarchas. — Story of 
Beaumarchais and Clav^jo. — Goethe's composition of " Clayigo". — Character of 
the play. — ^Merck's reproach. — Qoethe's acquaintance with Elopstock and Lava- 
ter. — Character of Lavater. — Sentimentalism of the epoch. — Probable parent- 
age of Goethe's religions opinions. — ^Faith and knowledge. — Acquaintance with 
Basedow, the educational reformer.— W iid'and genius-like demeanour. — ^Ac- 
quaintance with Jacobi. — Impressions produced by his wonderful personality. — 
Studies Spinoza. — Studies the history and doctrines of the Moravians. — Con- 
oeives the idea of treating epically the history of the "pandering Jew". — Pro- 
jects a play on the fable of Prometheus. — Comparison of the extant fragment 
with the Prometheus of .£schylus and Shelley . . 160 



Love for Anna Elizabeth Schdnemann (Lili). — Character of Lili. — Goethe's verses 
to Lili — "Erwin und Elmire". — Objections to the marriage. — Composition of 
"Stella". — Canning's caricature of the work. — Tour in Switzerland with the 
two Counts Stolberg. — Separation from Lili. — " Lili's Menagerie". — Com- 
mencement of " Egmont". — Goethe accepts Karl August's invitation to Wei- 
mar ......... 180 

g|0ok Ifet ^ourtfe.-1776 to 1779. 



Description of Weimar. — ^The Wartburg. — Banqueting-hall of the Minnesingers. — 
ATinual meeting of the Bachs. — The Park. — Legend of the serpent of Weimar. 
— ^Charming environs. — Social condition of the period. — State of science. — Ab- 
sence of comfort and luxury. — Rough and simple manners. — Condition of the 
people. — Prices. — Influence of the Court. — No real public for Art at Weimar. — 
Necessity in Art for the co-operation of the nation with individual genius 189 



The Dowager Duchess Amalia. — Mdlle. G^hhausen. — Wieland. — Einsiedel. — Corona 
Schrdter. — Bertuch. — Mussus. — Seckendorf. — The Duchess Luise. — Karl Au- 
gust. — Grftfin Werther. — Fran von Stein. — Knebel. — Herder 203 



Sensation created by Goethe at Weimar. — Laxity of German morals based on senti- 
mentalism. — Goethe's flirtations. — Skating ; dissipation leading to weariness. — 
His dose intimacy with Earl August. — Raised to the post of Geheime Lega- 
tions Rath. — Protest of the officials silenced by the duke. — Exagge^ted scan- 
dal. — Elopstock's letter of remonstrance. — Breach between Klopstock and 
Goethe. — Gleim's anecdote of Goethe. — Absurdity of the charge that Gk>ethe 
sacrificed his genius to the Court. — Merck's approbation of Goethe's posi- 
tion ......... 211 




Charlotte, Baroness von Stein. — Gk>ethe fiaJls in love with her. — ^Extracts from letters. 
— The Gartenhaos in the Park dedicated to her. — The duke takes it from Bertnch, 
and transfers it to Goethe. — Boyal visits. — Love of Nature. — Ballad of the 
Fisherman ........ 223 



Goethe's influence with the Duke, and efforts to improve Weimar. — Popularitj of 
private theatricals. — Open air performances. — Representation of "Minerva's 
Birth, Life, and Deeds". — Goethe's operetta "Die Fischerin". — Miscellaneous 
performances. — Representation of the " Iphigenia". — 6k)ethe's acting. — Various 
employments of time . . . . . . . 230 



Love and ambition. — Death of his sister. — Adopts a poor boy. — Letters from senti- 
mental youths. — Composition of " Triumph der Empfindsamkeit". — Journey to 
the Harz mountains in disguise. — Interview with. Plessing, the misanthrope. — 
Suicide of Fraulein von Lassberg. — Goethe's increased hatred of Wertherism — 
Representation of the " Triumph der Empfindsamkeit" . . 238 



His manifold employments and studies. — His love of the people. — Visit to Berlin. — 
Frederic the Great. — Goethe's kindness. — His delicate benevolence to Ki-aft. — 
His letters to Kraft. — Refutation of the opinion that Goethe was cold and 
heartless ......... 245 

gooh tfre Jfift^— 1779 to 1793. 



Passage of Youth to Manhood. — Composition of the " Iphigenia " in prose. — The 
prose mania ........ 258 



Mistaken notion that the Iphigenia is a specimen of the Greek tragedy. — Necessary 
calmness of evolution in the Gbeek drama confounded with calmness of life. — 
Deep passions called into play by the Greek dramatists. — Profound difference 
between Goethe and Euripides. — " Iphigenia " not a Greek but a German play. 
Not a drama, but a dramatic poem.— Parallel between the Iphigenia of Goethe 
and the Iphigenia of Euripides . . . . . 262 



Goethe active in his official duties. — Raised to the rank of Geheimrath. — Journey 
with Karl August to Frankfurt and Strasburg. — Interview with Fredeiika. — 


Interview with lili. — Journey to Switzerland. — Schiller first sees Goethe. — 
Betnm to Weimar. — Changes in his mode of life. — Passionate study of science. 
— Tendency to believe in the unity of nature. — Slow advance to a more serious 
and decisive plan of existence. — Baised to nobility. — Increased devotion to the 
Frau von Stein. — Occasional discords with Karl August. — Feels authorship to 
be the true mission of his life ...... 274 



Birth of a crown-prince. — Goethe's poem of " Dmenau ". — Increased official burdens. 
— Journey in the Harz with Fritz von Stein. — Prepares the " Planet Dance ". — 
Pronounces an oration on the re-opening of the Ilmenau mines. — Discovers an 
intermaxiUary bone in man. — Biog^phical significance of the discovery. — 
Studies in natural history. — Changes in Weimar society. — Increase of Salary. — 
His generosity. — Separation of opinion between Goethe and Jacobi. — Goethe 
disg^tedwith the hypocritical nature of Lavater. — Strong impulse to visit 
Italy. — His secret departure . . . . . . 283 



Gk)ethe in Italy under an assumed name. — The " Italiaiusche Beise ". — His delight 
in the present, and not in the past. — His residence in Venice and Borne. — 
Passion for art. — ^Tries to discover the secret of vegetable forms. — Weimar 
grumbling. — His visit to Naples. — Sir William and Lady Hamilton. — Vesuvius, 
Paestum, Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Capua. — Palermo. — Visits the parents of 
CagUostro. — Betum to Bome. — Literary labours. — Effect of his residence in 
Italy. — Besult of his study of art. — Falls in love with a young Milanese. — 
Betums to Weimar ....... 292 



" Pigment " a universal favourite, but not a masteipiece. — A novel in dialogue, not 
a drama. — The character of Egmont a type of humanity. — ^Materials and con- 
struction of the play. — Analysis of " Egmont ". — " Tasso " . . 801 



Melancholy return from Italy to Weimar. — Letter to Karl August. — Believed from 
the more onerous duties of office. — Coolness towards the Frau von Stein. — 
Schiller's account of his first interview with Goethe. — Wide gulf between the 
two. — Difference in their fortunes ..... 309 



Her first meeting with Gbethe. — Her position, education, and character. — Her 
connection with Goethe. — Composition of the "Boman Elegies". — How far a 
poet is justified in disregarding the conventional proprieties of his age. — 
Goethe's love for Christiane. — Disapprobation of Weimar society. — Bupture 
with the Frau von Stein. — Goethe's letters to Frau von Stein. — Her letter de- 
scribing his illness ....... 316 



Studies. — Gk>ethe's authority accepted in art, but r^'ected in science. — Beal 
nature of authority, and claims of amateurs. — "Hit^ treatise on the "Me- 


tamorpliOBes of Plants." — Its oold reception. — Before its age. — Beoogni- 
tion of Ills labours by St. Hiloire. — ^Modern recog^tion of his disooveiy. — 
High character of his botanical and anatomical studies. — Unfortunate studies 
in optics. — Misunderstanding of Kewton's theory. — Publication of the " Bei- 
trftge zur Optik". — Opposition to it. — Goethe's obstinacy and irritability 
— His "Theory of Colours" expounded and contrasted with that of New- 
ton. — Goethe's explanation of the phenomena of refraction. — Source of 
his errors. — Misconception of Method. — Efforts to supply the place of experi- 
ment and mathematics by observation and reason. — ^Native direction of his 
mind towards the concrete phenomena, not towards abstractions. — His success 
in the organic sciences. — Not a metaphysician, but a thinker on the d priori 
method. — Review of his discovery of the intermaxillary bone. — Claims of Vicq 
d'Azyr. — Employment of the comparative method. — The doctrine of mor- 
phology. — The Tertebral theory, and theory of Metamorphosis. — Goethe's 
creation of a type. — Claims of Linnaeus and Wolff. — Goethe's hypothesis of 
elaborated sap opposed to Wolff's hyjwthesis of deficient sap. — Law of ve- 
getation and law of reproduction clearly seen by GU>ethe. — Goethe's efforts 
to create the science of philosophic anatomy. — The positive method. — Principle 
of development grasped and applied by Geothe. — Law of division of labour in 
the animal organism clearly expressed in his formula. — His " Introduction to 
Comparative Anatomy". — Vertebral theory of the skull criticised. — Examina- 
tion of Goethe's chum to the discovery of the vertebral theory of the skull 826 



Goethe's second visit to Italy. — The Venetian Epigrams. — Return to Weimar. — 
Friday evenings. — " Der 6hx)ss Kophta ", — Invasion of France for the restora- 
tion of Louis XVI. — Goethe accompanies the army. — Utter want of interest in 
politics. — Opposed to the principles of the Revolution, but without sympathy 
for the Royalists. — His diary of the "Campaign of France". — Return to 
Weimar. — His house in the Frauenplan. — ^The study, the library, and the 
bedroom. — Friendship with Meyer. — The " Biirger-general ". — The "Aufge- 
'.— "ReineckeFuchfl" ...... 365 

$ook i\t Sutfe.— 1794 to 1805. 



Friendship of Goethe and Schiller.— Their profound dissimilarity.— Personal appear- 
ance of both.— Points of resemblance between them.— Their mutual earnest- 
ness in art. — Similarity in the phases of their development. — Goethe restored 
to poetry by Schiller. — Goethe's admiration for his rivals. — His praise of Schiller. 
— Shakspeare's silence about his rivals. — Indifference of Weimar to the progress 
of the Revolution. — Contemporary state of German literature.—" Die Horen " 
started by Schiller. — Rapid growth of the friendship between Goethe and 
Schiller.— Beneficial influence of Schiller on Goethe.— Goethe's scientific ardour 
and poetical plans. — Failure of the " Horen ". — Publication of the " Xenien ". — 
Sensation produced . . • • 381 





English, French, and G^erman viewB on the camel. — German philosophical criticism. 
— Gk>ethe'8 primaxy intention in " Wilhelm Meister *'. — Alterations in the plan. — 
Schiller's objection. — Its twofold pniposes-^dramatic and edncationaL — Charac- 
ters in the novel. — ^Artistic atheism. — Supposed immorality of "Wilhelm 
Meister ". — Its deep and healthy moral meaning. — The " Confessions of a Fair 
Saint". — Extract from Schiller's criticisms on "Wilhelm Meister" . 392 



^^ Influences of Goethe and Schiller on each other. — Evil effects of philosophy on 
German literature. — Character of the Romantic School in Germany. — Schlegel, 
Fiohte, Sohelling, Schleiermacher, and Solger. — Sh&kspeaie translated by 
Tieok and Schlegel. — Preference of the Bomanticists for the legends and heroes 
of Catholicism. — General enthusiasm for Mysticism. — Art the handmaid of 
BeUgion. — ^Return of the painters to Boman Catholicism and the middle ages. 
— ^Theoretical discussions of Goethe and Schiller. — Goethe's Uteraiy labours. — 
Gives Schiller a plan of " William Tell ".—Walter Scott 402 



Foundation of "Hermann and Dorothea". — Character of the poem. — ^Truthful 

descriptions of country life and country people. — Objective delineation of the 

scenes. — Pure human existence represented in the subject matter. — Clearness 

and significance of the style. — Subtleties of German sesthetical critidsm . 408 



Court character of the Weimar stage. — National cooperation indispensable to 
dramatic art. — Error of Goethe and Schiller in appealing only to the cultivated 
few. — ^Necessity for the combination of amusement with instruction in the 
drama. — Failure of Gk>ethe's experiments on the Weimar stage, arising from 
his contempt of public opinion. — The Jena students. — Despotic efforts of Goethe 
to control public criticism. — ^Managerial despotism over the actors. — Reverence 
of the actors for Goethe. — Difficulties in the management. — Effect of the 
connexion of Goethe and Schiller. — Representation of "Wallenst^". — 
Devrient's critical observations on the Weimar school. — Difficulties of rhythm 
and pronunciation. — Art preferred to nature. — Rehabilitation of the French 
tragedy. — Delusive efforts to found a German drama by poetic works and 
antique restorations. — Goethe no dramatist. — His version of "Romeo and 
Juliet". — Character of Shakspeare's play. — The ixijurious alterations by Gk)ethe. 
— Declining interest of 6k)ethe in the theatre after Schiller's death. — Refrisal 
to admit performing dogs on the stage. — Offensively dismissed by Earl August. 
— The Duke's regret ....... 419 



Goethe's mode of daily life. — His reception of visitors. — Burger and Heine. — Jean 
Paul Richter's description of €K>ethe and Schiller. — Friendship of Goethe and 
Schiller, and partizanship of their respective admirers. — Eotzebue's unsuccess- 
fril efforts to create a coolness between Goethe and Schiller. — Herder's jealousy 
of Schiller.— The " NatOrliohe Tochter".— Madame de Stael's visit to Weimar. 
— DlnesB of Goethe and Schiller. — Schiller's death . . 435 




Gradual development of " Faust", and progreas of its composition. — The problem 
of our intellectual exiBtence, and picture of our social existence. — Resemblance 
between " Faust" and " Hamlet". — Twofold cause of the popularity of " Ham- 
let" : intellectual sublimity and dramatic variety. — Popularity of " Faust". — 
The " idea of ' Faust* " not so important a study as the " means" which produce 
the effect.—Analysis of the First Part of " Faust".— The Theatre Prologue.— 
The Prologue in Heaven. — Necessity for the two Prologues. — First scene of 
Faust in his study. — ^The scene before the gate. — Faust's study. — ^Auerbach's 
cellar. — The witches' kitchen. — Meeting with Margaret — Wood and cavern. — 
The " Walpurgis Nacht". — Causes of the early disappointment and after fieisci- 
nation of the readers of " Faust." — Inadequacy of all translations of poetry. — 
Analysis of Marlowe's " Faustus" and Calderon's " El Magico Prodigioso". — 
Description of Maler Mdller's play. — Coleridge's criticisms on Ooethe's " Faust" 
compared with Goethe's own observations. — In " Faust", the problem stated 
but not solved . . 446 



Goethe's £etme lessened by his wealth. — Perfection of his poetry and occasional 
feebleness of his prose. — ^Witchery of his lyrics. — Sincerity of their style. — Sim- 
plicity and directness of the images. — Story of the " Bride of Corinth". — " Gott 
und die Bajadere".— The " Erl King" ..... 480 

iooh tfec »tb£ntfe.--1805 to 1832. 



Eifect of Schiller's death on Goethe. — Visit of Jacobi. — Acquaintance with Gall. — 
Appreciation of Phrenology. — Battle of Jena. — Sacking of Weimar. — French 
soldiers in Goethe's house. — Courage of the Duchess Luise. — Napoleon's intem- 
perate rage against Earl August. — Characteristic outburst of Goethe 485 



Goethe's wife- ......... 490 



Restoration of peace at Weimar. — Visit of Bettina. — Her character. — True nature 
of her intercourse with Goethe. — Forbidden Goethe's house. — Unauthenticity 
of the " Correspondence" proved by Riemer. — Napoleon at Erfurt. — His recep- 
tion of Karl August, Goethe, and Wieland. — Conversations of Napoleon with 
Goethe. — Goethe flattered by Napoleon's attentions. — ^Beethoven's ostentatious 
independence, and 6k)ethe'8 supposed servility • 495 




Goethe's passion for Minna Herzlieb.— " Die Walverwandtschaften".— Plot and 

/^ character of the novel. — General critidsms. — ^Marriage of Minna. — Death of 

Goethe's mother . . . . . . • • 504 



Goethe's acquaintance with Beethoven. — Death of Wieland. — Struggle of Gtermany 
against Napoleon — Goethe's indifference in politics, but earnestness in art. — 
Accused of looking on life only as an artist. — Accused of irreligion. — Changes in 
his religious opinions. — Opposition to dogmatic teachings. — Theosophy and 
ethics. — His religion. — His system of morals. — Character of his old age. — His 
oriental studies. — The Westdstliche Divan. — Ovation at Frankfurt . 511 



Publication of the " Kunst und Alterthum". — His growing tendency towards mys- 
ticism. — Visit of Werther's Charlotte. — Death of his wife, Christiane. — ^Marriage 
of his son with Ottilie von Pogwisch. — Anecdote of the enlargement of the Jena 
library. — Quajrel with the Landtag concerning the accounts of the commission 
for aart and science. — Charged with stealing an ingot of gold. — Story of Ddbe- 
reiner and the bar of platinum. — Story of the hundred engravings borrowed from. 
Knebel. — ^Miscellaneous literary labours. — " Wilhelm Meister's Wandeigahre". 
— Character of the work. — Eckermann's account of its extension. — Opposition 
to it in Germany. — Spread of Gk>ethe's fame in Italy, England, and France. — 
Vitality of his old age. — His passion for Fraulein von Lewezow. — Celebration of 
his jubilee at Weimar. — Protection of his copyright throughout Germany. — 
Death of Earl August. — Effect on Goethe ..... 625 



Embarrassment in expressing a fSaithftd opinion. — Comparison of the impression 
produced by "Faust" and the "Second Part". — Character of the "Second 
Part". — Symbolism in art must be intrinsically beautiful and interesting, as 
well as significant. — The "Second Part of Faust" a failure.— Analysis and 
criticism . . . . . , . . . » 541 



Goethe in his eighty-first year. — Revolution of July, and contest between Cuvier 
and St. Hilaire.— Death of Goethe's only son. — Tribute to Goethe fix)m fifteen 
Englishmen^— Thackeray's residence at Weimar, and interview with Goethe. — 
Goethe's activity in his old age. — Signs of decay. — Death . . 550 


1749 to 1765. 

Vom Yater haV ich die Statur, 
Des Lebens emstes Ftihren ; 
Von Miltterchen die Frohnatur, 
Die Lust za fabnliren. 

H&tte Gott mich anders gewollt. 
So h&tt' er mich anders gebaut. 



QuiNTus CuRTius tells US that, in certain seasons, Bactria was dark- 
ened by whirlwinds of dust, which completely covered and concealed 
the roads. Left thns without their usual landmarks, the wanderers 
awaited the rising of the stars, — 

" To light them on their dim and perilous way". 

May we not say the same of Literature ? From time to time its 
pathways are so obscured beneath the rubbish of the age, that many 
a footsore pilgrim seeks in vain the hidden route. In such times 
let us imitate the Bactrians : let us cease to look upon the confusions 
of the day, and turning our gaze upon the great Immortals who 
have gone before, seek guidance from their light. In all ages the 
biographies of great men have been fruitful in lessons. In all ages 
they have been powerful stimulants to a noble ambition. In aU ages 
they have been regarded as armouries wherein are gathered the 
weapons with which great battles have been won. 

There may be some among my readers who will dispute Goethe^s 
claim to greatness. They wiU admit that he was a great poet, but 
deny that he was a great man. In denying it, they wiU set forth 
the qualities which constitute their ideal of greatness, and finding 
him deficient in some of these qualities, will dispute his claim. But 
,in awarding him that title, I do not mean to imply that he was an 
ideal man ; I do not present him as the exemplar of all greatness. 




No man can be such an exemplar. Humaniiy reveals itself in frag- 
ments. One man is the exponent of one kind of excellence, another 
of another. Achilles wins the victory, and Homer immortalises it : 
we bestow the laurel crown on both. In virtue of a genius such as 
modem times have only seen equalled onge or twice, Goethe deserves 
the epithet of great ; unless we believe a great genius can belong to 
a small nature. Nor is it in virtue of genius alone that he deserves 
the title. Merck said of him that what he lived was more beautiful 
than what he wrote ; and his Life, amid all its weaknesses and all its 
errors, presents a picture of a certain grandeur of soul, which cannot 
be contemplated unmoved. I shall make no attempt to conceal his 
faults. Let them be dealt with as harshly as severest justice may 
dictate, they will not eclipse the central light which shines throughout 
his life. But although I neither wish to excuse, nor to conceal faults 
which he assuredly had, we must always bear in mind that the 
faults of a celebrated man are apt to carry an undue emphasis. 
They are thrown iuto stronger relief by the very splendour of his 
fame. Had Goethe never written Faust no one would have heard 
that he was an inconstant lover, or a tepid politician. His gloiy 
immortalises his shame. 

Let us begin as near the beginning as may be desirable, by 
glancing at his ancestry. That he had inherited his organization 
and tendencies from his forefathers, and could call nothing in himself 
original, he has told us in these verses : 

" Vom Vater hab* ich die Statur, 

Des Lebena emstes Filhren ; 
Von Miitterchen die Frohnatur, 

Die Lust zu fabuliren. 
Urahnlierr war der Schonsten hdld. 

Das spukt so bin und wieder ; 
Urabnfrau liebte Scbmuck und Gold, 

Das zuckt wobl durcb die Glieder. 
Sind nun die Elemente nicbt, 

Aufl dem Complex zu trennen. 
Was let denn an dem ganzen Wicbt 

Original zu nennen ?"* 

• "From my father I inherit my frame, and the steady guidance of life; from 
dear little mother my happy disposition, and love of story-teUing. My ancestor was 
a ' ladies' man/ and that habit haunts me now and then ; my ancestr^ loved finezy 
and show, which also runs in the blood. If, then, the cdements are not to be sex)a- 
rated from the whole, what can one caU orig^inal in the descendant ?" 

This is a very inadequate translation; but believing that to leave German 
untranslated is unfair to those whose want of leisure or inclination has prevented 
their acquiring the language, I shall throughout translate every word cited. At 
the same time it is umair to the poet, and to the writer quoting the poet, to 
be forced to give translations which are after all felt not to represent the force and 
spirit of the original. I will do my best to give approximative translations, which 
the reader will bo good enough to accept as such, rather than be left in the dark. 

1749.] PARENTAGE. 3 

The first glimpse we get of Iiis ancestiy carries us back to about 
the middle of the seventeenth century. In the G-rafschafb of Mans- 
feld, in Thuringia, the little town of Artem numbered among its 
scanty inhabitants a farrier, by name Hans Christian Goethe. His 
son, Frederick, being probably of a more meditative turn, selected a 
more meditative employment than that of shoeing horses: he became 
a tailor. Having passed an apprenticeship (not precisely that of 
\ Wilhelm Meister), he commenced his Wanderings, in the course of 
which he reached Frankfurt. Here he soon found employment, and 
being, as we learn, '' a ladies^ man,'' he soon also found a wife. The 
master tailor, Sebastian Lutz, gave him his daughter, on his admis- 
sio^ to the citizenship of Frankfurt and to the guild of tailors. This 
wasHa 1687. Several children were bom, and vanished; in 1700 
his wflfe, too, vanished, to be replaced, five years afterwards, by 
Frau Cornelia Schellhom, the daughter of another tailor, Georg 
Walter'^j she was then a widow, blooming with six-and-thirty sum- 
met^, and possessing the solid attractions of a good property, 
nanli^, the hotel Zum Weidenhof where her new husband laid down 
the sdssors, and donned the landlord's apron. He had two sons by 
her, and died in 1730, aged seventy-three. 

Of these two sons, the younger, Johann Caspar, was the father of 
our poet. Thus we see that Goethe, Uke Schiller, sprang from the ( 
people. He makes no mention of the lucky tailor, nor of the Thur- 1 
ingian farrier, in his autobiography. This silence may be variously 
mterpreted. At first, I imagined it was aristocratic prudery on the 
part of 'vo7i Goethe, minister and nobleman ; but it is never well to 
put ungenerous constructions, when others, equally plausible and 
more honorable, are ready ; let us rather follow the advice of Arthur 
Helps, to " employ our imagination in the service of charity." We 
can easily imagine that Goethe was silent about the tailor, because, 
in truth, having never known hirri, there was none of that affection- 
ate remembrance which encircles the objects of early life, to make 
this grandfather figure in the autobiography beside iihe grandfather 
Textor, who wa^ known and loved. Probably, also, the tailor was 
seldom talked of in the pai;pntal circle. There is a peculiar and in- 
delible ridicule attached to the idea of a tailor in Germany, which 
often prevents people of much humbler pretensions than Goethe, 
from whispering their connexion with such a trade. Goethe does 
mention this grandfather in the Second Book of his Autobiography , 
and tells us how he was teazed by the taunts of boys respecting his 
humble parentage ; these taunts even went so far as to imply that 
he might possibly have had several grandfathers ; and he began to 

B 2 


speculate on the possibility of some latent aristocracy in Hs descent. 
This made him examine with some curiosity the portraits of noble- 
men, to try and detect a likeness. • 

Johann Caspar Goethe received a good education, travelled into 
Italy, became an imperial councillor in Frankfurt, and married, in 
1748, Katharina Elizabeth, daughter of Johann Wolfgang Textor, 
the chief magistrate {SchuUheiss) .* 

The genealogical tables of kings and conquerors are thought of 
interest, and why should not the genealogy of our poet be equally 
interesting to us ? In the beUef that it will be so, I here subjoin 

* The family of Textor and Weber exist to this day, and under both names, in 
the Hohenlohe territory. Karl JuHus Weber, the humorous author of " Democritus" 
and of the " Briefe eines in Deutschland reisenden Deutschen/' was a member of 
it. In the description of the JuhikBum of the Niimberg University of Altorf, in 
1723, mention is made of one Joannes Guolfgangus Textor as a bygone ornament of 
the fiiculty of law ; and Mr. Demmler, to whom I am indebted for these particulars, 
suggests the probability of this being the same John Wolfgang, who died as Ober- 
btlrgermeister in Frankfort, 1701. 








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1749.] PARENTAGE. 7 

Goethe's father was a cold, stem, formal, somewhat pedantic, 
but truth-loving upright-minded man. He hungered for know- 
ledge ; and, although in general of a laconic turn, freely imparted 
all he learned. In his domestic circle his word was law. Not only 
imperious, but in some respects capricious, he was nevertheless 
greatly respected, if little loved, by wife, children, and friends. He 
is characterised * by Krause as ein geradliniger Frankfurter Reichs- 
biirger — " a formal Frankfurt citizen,'^ whose habits were as measured 
as his gait.* Prom him the poet inherited the well-built frame, the 
erect carriage, and the measured movement which in old age became 
stiffiiess, and was construed as diplomacy or haughtiness ; from 
him also came that orderliness and stoicism which have so much dis- 
tressed those who cannot conceive genius otherwise than as vagabond 
in its habits. The craving for knowledge, the delight in comtouni- j 
eating it, the almost pedantic attention to details, which are notice- 1 
able in the poet, are all traceable in the father. ( 

The mother was more like what we conceive asui^e proper parent 
for a poet. She is one of the pleasantest figures in German literature, 
and one standing out with greater vividness than ahnost any other. 
Her simple, hearty, joyous, and affectionate nature endeared her to 
all. She was the dehght of children, the favourite of poets and 
princes. To the last retaining her enthusiasm and simplicity, min- 
gled with great shrewdness and knowledge of character, Frau Aja, 
as they christened her, was at once grave and hearty, dignified and 
simple. She had read most of the best German and Italian authors, 
had picked up considerable desultory information, and liad that 
" mother wit'' which so often in women and poets seems to render 
culture superfluous, their rapid intuitions anticipating the tardy 
conclusions of experience. Her letters are fuU of spirit : not always 
strictly grammatical ; not irreproachable in orthography ; but vigor- 
ous and vivacious. After a lengthened interview with her, an enthu- 
siast exclaimed, '' Now do I understand how Goethe has become 
the man he is !"t Wieland, Merck, Burger, Madame de Stael, Karl 
August,and other great people sought her acqiiaintance. TheDuchess 
Amalia corresponded with her as with an intimate friend ; and her 
letters were welcomed eagerly at £he Weimar Court. She was mar- 
ried at seventeen, to a man for whom she had no love, and was only 

• Perhaps geradliniger might be translated as "an old square-toes," having re- 
ference to the antiquated cut of the old man's clothes. The others of the present 
generation dubbed the stiff coat of their grandfathers, with its square skirts and 
collars, by the name of nuigieter maiheseos, the name by which tiie Pythagorean 
proposition is known in Germany. * 

t Ephemeriden der Literatwr, quoted in Nicolovius vber Ooethe. 


eighteen when the poet was bom.* This, instead of making her 
prematurely old, seems to have perpetuated her girlhood. " I and 
my Wolfgang,'* she said, *' have always held fast to each other, be- 
cause we were both young together." To him she transmitted her 
love of story-telling, her animal spirits, her love of everything which 
bore the stamp of distinctive individuality, and her love of seeing 
happy faces around her. " Order and quiet," she says in one of her 
charming letters to Freiherr von Stein, " are my principal character- 
istics. Hence I despatch at once whatever I have to do, the most 
disagreeable always first, and I gulp down the devil without looking 
at him. When all has returned to its proper state, then I defy any 
one to surpass me in good humour." Her heartiness and tolerance 
are the causes, she thinks, why every one likes her. '' I am fond of 
people, and that every one feels directly — ^young and old, I pass 
without pretension through the world, and that gratifies men. I 
never hemoralize any one — altvays seek out the good that is in them, 
and leave what is had to him who made manhind, and htwws how to 
round off the angles. In this way I make myself happy and com- 
fortable." Who does not recognise the son in those accents ? The 
kindliest of men inherited his loving happy nature from the heartiest 
of women. 

He also inherited from her his dislike of unnecessary agitation and 
emotion : that deliberate avoidance of all things capable of disturb- 
ing his peace of mind, which has been construed as coldness. Her 
sunny nature shrank from storms. She stipulated with her servants 
that they were not to trouble her with afflicting news, except upon 
some positive necessity for the communication. In 1805, when her 
son was dangerously ill at Weimar, no one ventured to speak to her 
on the subject. Not until he had completely recovered did she 
voluntarily enter on it. *' I knew it all," she remarked, " but said 
nothing. Now we can talk about him without my feeling a stab 
every time his name is mentioned." 

In this voluntary insulation from disastrous intelligence, there is 
something so antagonistic to the notorious craving for excitement 
felt by the Teutonic races, something so unlike the morbid love of 
intellectual drams — the fierce alcohol of emotion with which we in- 
toxicate ourselves, that it is no wonder if Goethe has on this account 
been accused of insensibihty. Yet, in truth, a very superficial know- 
ledge of his nature suffices to show that it was not from coldness ho 
avoided indulgence in the ''luxury of woe." It was excess of 

• Lovers of par&Uels may be reminded that Napoleon'e mother was only eighteen 
when the hero of Auaterlitz was bom. 


1749.] PARENTAGE. 9 

sensibiliiy^ not want of sympathy. His delicate nature shrank from 
the wear and tear of excitement. That which to coarser natures 
would have been a stimulus^ was to him a disturbance. It is doubt- 
less the instinct of an emotional nature to seek such stimulants ; but 
his reason was strong enough to keep this instinct under control. 
Falk relates that when Goethe heard he had looked upon Wieland in 
deaths " and thereby procured myself a miserable evening, and worse 
night, he vehemently reproved me for it. Why, said he, should I 
suffer the delightful impression of the features of my friend to be 
obliterated* by the sight of a disfigured mask ? I carefully avoided 
seeing Schiller, Herder, or the Duchess Amalia, in the coflSn. I, 
for my part, desire to retain in my memory a picture of my 
departed friends more full of soul than the mere mask can fur- 
nish me.'' 

This subjection of the instinct of curiosity to the dictates of reason 
is not coldness. There is danger indeed of carrying it too far, and 
of coddling the mind ; but into this extreme neither G oethe nor his 
mother can be said to have fallen. At any rate, let the reader pro- 
nounce what judgment he thinks fit, it is right that he should 
at the outset distinctly understand it to be a characteristic of the 
man. The self-mastery it implies forms the keystone of his character.~> 
In him the emotive was subjected to the intellectual. He was / 
''king over himself.'' He, as he tells us, found men eager enough 
to lord it over others, while indifferent whether they could rule 
themselves — 

'' Das wollen alle Herren seyn, 
Und keiner ist Heir von sich V* 

He made it his study to subdue into harmonious unity the rebellious , 
impulses which incessantly threatened the supremacy of reason. ' 
Here, on the threshold of his career, let attention be called to this 
cardinal characteristic : his footsteps were not guided by a light 
tremulous in every gust, liable to fall to the ground amid the hurry- 
ing agitation of vulgar instincts, but a torch grasped by an iron 
will, and lifted high above the currents of those lower gusts, shed- 
ding a continuous steady gleam across the troubled path. I do not 
say he never stumbled. At times the clamorous agitation of rebel- 
lious passions misled him as it misleads others, for he was very 
human, often erring ; but viewing his life as it disposes itself into 
the broad masses necessary for a characteristic appreciation, I 
say that in him, more than in almost any other man of his time, 
naked vigour of resolution, moving in alliance with steady clear- 


ness of intellect, produced a self-mastery of the very Iiigliest 

This he owed partly to his father and partly to his mother. It 
was from the latter he derived those characteristics which deter- 
mined the movement and orbit of his artistic nature : her joyous, 
healthy temperament, humour, fancy, and susceptibility, were, in 
him, creative, owing to the marvellous insight which gathered up the 
scattered and vanishing elements of experience into new and living 

* " All I have had to do I have done in kindly fashion/' he said : " I let tongues 
wag as they pleased. What I saw to be the nght thing that I did." 




JoHANN Wolfgang Goethe was bom on the 28th August, 1749, as 
the clock sounded the hour of noon, in the busy town of Frankfurt- 
on-the-Maine. The busy town, as may be supposed, was quite heed- 
less of what was then passing in the comer of that low, heavy-beamed 
room in the Qrosse Hirsch Qrahen, where an infant, black, and almost 
lifeless, was watched with agonizing anxiety — ^an anxiety dissolving 
into tears of joy, as the aged grandmother exclaimed to the pale 
mother : " Bdthin, er hht ! he hves !" But if the town was heed- 
less, not so were the stars, as astrologers will certify; the stars 
knew who was gasping for life beside his trembling mother, and in 
solemn convocation they prefigured his future greatness. Goethe, 
with a grave smile, notes this conjunction of the stars. 

Whatever the stars may have betokened, this August 1 749 was a mo- 
mentous month to Geraaany, if only because it gave birth to the man 
whose influence on his nation has been greater than that of any man 
since Luther, not even excepting Lessing. A momentous month in 
veiy momentous times. It was the middle of the eighteenth century : 
a period when the movement which had culminated in Luther was 
passing from religion to politics, and freedom of thought was trans- 
lating itself into liberty of action. From theology the movement had 
communicated itself to philosophy, morals, and politics. The agita- 
tion was still mainly in the higher classes, but it was gradually de- 
scending to the lower. A period of deep unrest : big with events 
which would expand the conceptions of all men, and bewilder some 
of the wisest. 

It is not the biographer's province to write a history of an epoch 
while telKng the story of a life; but some historical indication is 
necessary, in order that the time and place should be vividly before 
the reader's mind ; and perhaps the readiest way to call up such a 
picture in a paragraph will be to mention some of the '^ notables'' of 
that period, and at what points in their career they had arrived. In 
that very month of August Madame du Chatelet, the learned trans- 


lator of Newton, the loving but pedantic Uranio of Voltaire, died in 
childbed, leaving him without a companion, and without a counsellor 
to prevent his going to the court of Frederick the Great. In that 
year Rousseau was seen in the brilliant circle of Madame d'Epinay, 
disputing with the Encyclopedists, declaiming eloquently on the 
sacredness of maternity, and going home to cast his newborn infant 
into the basket of the Foundling Hospital. In that year Samuel 
Johnson was toiling manfully over his English dictionary ; Gibbon 
was at Westminster, trying with unsuccessful diligence to master 
the Greek and Latin rudiments ; Goldsmith was delighting the Tony 
Lumpkins of his district, and the '' wandering bear-leaders of gen- 
teeler sort,'' with his talents, and enjoying that '' careless idleness 
of fireside and easy chair/' and that " tavern excitement of the game 
of cards, to which he looked back so wistfully from his first hard 
London struggles.'' In that year Bufibn, whose scientific greatness 
Goethe was one of the first to perceive, produced the first volume of 
his Histoire Naturelle. Haller was at Gottingen performing those 
experiments on sensibility and irritability which were to immortalise 
him. John Hunter, who had recently left Scotland, joined Cheselden 
at the Chelsea Hospital. Mirabeau and Alfieri were tyrants in their 
nurseries ; and Marat was an innocent boy of five years old, toddling 
about in the Val de Travers, unmolested as yet by the wickedness 
of ^' les aristocrats." 

If these names have helped to call up the period, we must seek in 
Goethe's own pages for a picture of the place. He has painted the 
city of Frankfurt as one who loved it. No city in Germany was 
better fitted for the birthplace of this cosmopolitan poet. It was 
rich in speaking memorials of the past, remnants of old German life, 
lingering echoes of the voices which sounded through the middle 
ages : such as a town within a town, the fortress within a for- 
tress, the walled cloisters, the various symbolical ceremonies still 
preserved from feudal times, and the Jews' quarter, so picturesque, 
so filthy, and so strikingly significant. But if Frankfurt was thus 
representative of the past, it was equally representative of the pre- 
sent. The travellers brought there by the Rhine-stream, and by the 
great northern roads, made it a representative of Europe, and an 
emporium of Commerce. It was thus a centre for that distinctively 
modem idea — IndustriaUsm — ^which began, and must complete, the 
destruction of Feudalism. This two-fold character Frankfurt retains 
to the present day : the storks, perched upon its ancient gables, look 
down upon the varied bustle of Fairs held by modem Commerce in 
the ancient streets. 


The feeling for antiquity, and especially for old German life, which 
his native city would thus picturesquely cultivate, was rivalled by a 
feeling for Italy and its splendours, which was cultivated under the 
paternal roof. His father had lived in Italy, and had retained an 
inextinguishable delight in all its beauties. His walls were hung 
with architectural drawings and views of Rome ; and the poet was 
thus familiar from infancy with the Piazza del Popolo, St. Peter's, 
the Coliseum, and other centres of grand associations. Typical of 
his own nature and strivings is this conjunction of the Classic and 
the German — ^the one lying nearest to him, in homely intimacy, the 
other lying outside, as a mere scene he was to contemplate. Goethe 
by nature was more Greek than German, but he never freed himself 
from German influence. 

Thus much on time and place, the two cardinal conditions of life. 
Before quitting such generalities for the details of biography, it may 
be well to call attention to one hitherto unnoticed, viz., the moderate 
elevation of his social status. Placed midway between the two 
perilous extremes of affluence and want, his whole career received a 
modifying impulse from this position. He never knew adversity. 
This alone must necessarily have deprived him of one powerful 
chord which vibrates through literature. Adversity, the sternest of 
teachers, had nothing to teach him. He never knew the gaunt com- 
panionship of Want, whispering terrible suggestions. He never 
knew the necessity to conquer for himself breathing-room in the 
world j and thus all the feelings of bitterness, opposition, and 
defiance, which accompany and perplex the struggle of life, were to 
him almost unknown ; and he was taught nothing of the aggressive 
and practical energy which these feelings develope in impetuous 
natures. How mudi of his serenity, how much of his dislike to 
politics, may be traced to this origin ? 

That he was the loveliest baby ever seen, exciting admiration 
wherever nurse or mother carried him, and exhibiting, in swaddling 
clothes, the most wonderful intelUgence, we need no biographer 
to teU us. Is it not said of every baby ? But that he was in truth a 
wonderful child we have undeniable evidence, and of a kind less 
questionable than the statement of mothers and relatives. At three 
years old he could seldom be brought to play with little children, 
and only on the condition of their being pretty. One day, in a 
neighbour's house, he suddenly began to cry and exclaim, ''That 
black child must go away! I can't bear him!'' And he howled 
till he was carried home, where he was slowly pacified ; the whole 
cause of his grief being the ugUness of the child. 


A quick, merry little girl grew up by the boy's side. Pour other 
children also came, but soon vanished. Cornelia was the only com- 
panion who survived, and for her his affection dated from her cradle. 
He brought his toys to her, wanted to feed her and attend on her, 
and was very jealous of all who approached her. " When she was 
taken from the cradle, over which he watched, his anger was scarcely 
to be quieted. He was altogether much more easily moved to anger 
than to tears.'^ To the last his love for Cornelia was passionate. 

In old German towns, Frankfurt among them, the ground-floor 
consists of a great hall where the vehicles are housed. This floor 
opens in folding trap-doors, for the passage of wine-casks into the 
cellars below. In one comer of the hall there is a sort of lattice, 
opening by an iron or wooden grating upon the street. This is 
called the Qeramis. Here the crockery in daily use was kept ; here 
the servants peeled their potatoes, and cut their carrots and turnips, 
preparatory to cooking ; here also the housewife would sit with her 
sewing, or her knitting, giving an eye to what passed in the street 
(when anything did pass there) and an ear to a little neighbourly 
gossip. Such a place was of course a favourite with the children. 

One fine afternoon, when the house wa« quiet. Master Wolfgang, 
with his cup in his hand and nothing to do, finds himself in this 
Gerdms, looking out into the silent street ; and telegraphing to the 
young Ochsensteins who dwelt opposite. By way of doing sometliing 
he begins to fling the crockery into the street, delighted at the 
smashing music which it makes, and stimulated by the approbation 
of the brothers Ochsenstein, who chuckle at him from over the way, 
The plates and dishes are flying in this way, when his mother re- 
turns : she sees the mischief with a housewifely horror, melting into 
girlish sympathy, as she hears how heartily the little fellow laughs 
at his escapade, and how the neighbours laugh at him. 

This genial, indulgent mother employed her faculty for story- 
telling to his and her own delight. " Air, fire, earth, and water I 
represented under the forms of princesses ; and to all natural pheno- 
mena I gave a meaning, in which I almost believed more fervently 
than my little hearers. As we thought of paths which led from star 
to star, and that we should one day inhabit the stars, and thought of 
the great spirits we should meet there, I was as eager for the hours 
of story-telling as the children themselves ; I was quite curious 
about the future course of my own improvisation, and any invitation 
which interrupted these evenings was disagreeable. There I sat, and 
there Wolfgang held me with his large black eyes ; and when the 
fate of one of his favorites was not according to his fancy, I saw the 


angry veins swell on his temples, I saw him repress his tears. He 
often burst in with ' But, mother, the princess won't many the 
nasty tailor, even if he does kill the giant/ And when I made a 
pause for the night, promising to continue it on the morrow, I was 
certain that he would in the meanwhile think it out for himself, and 
so he often stimulated my imagination. When I turned the story 
according to his plan, and told him that he had found out the denoue- 
ment, then was he all fire and flame, and one could see his little 
heart beating underneath his dress I His grandmother, who made 
a great pet of him, was the confidant of all his ideas as to how the 
story would turn out, and as she repeated these to me, and I turned 
the story according to these hints, there was a little diplomatic 
secrecy between us, which we never disclosed. I had the pleasure 
of continuing my stoiy to the delight and astonishment of my 
hearers, and Wolfgang saw with glowing eyes the fulfilment of his 
own conceptions, and listened with enthusiastic applause.^' What a 
charming glimpse of mother and son ! 

The grandmother here spoken of lived in the same house, and 
when lessons were finished, away the children hurried to her room, 
to play. The dear old lady, proud as a grandmother, "spoiled'^ 
them of course, and gave them many an eatable, which they would 
get only in her room. But of all her gifts nothing was comparable 
to the puppetshow with which she surprised them on the Christmas 
eve of 1753, and which Goethe says '^ created a new world in the 
house.'' The reader of Wilhelm Meister will remember with what 
solemn importance the significance of such a puppetshow is treated, 
and may guess how it would exercise the boy's imagination. 

There was also the grandfather Textor, whose house the children 
gladly visited, and whose grave personality produced an impression 
on the boy, all the deeper because a certain mysterious awe sur- 
rounded the monosyllabic dream-interpreting old gentleman. His 
portrait presents him in a perruque d huit stages, with the heavy 
golden chain round his neck, suspending a medal given him by the 
Empress Maria Theresa ; but Goethe remembered him more vividly 
in his dressing-gown and slippers, moving amid the flowers of his 
garden, weeding, training, watering ; or seated at the dinner table 
where on Sundays he received his guests. 

The mother's admirable method of cultivating the inventive acti- 
vity of the boy, finds its pendant in the father's method of cultivating 
his receptive faculties. He speaks with less approbation than it de- 
served of his father's idea of education ; probably because late in life 
he felt keenly his deficiencies in systematic training. But the prin- 


ciple upon which the father proceeded was an excellent one, namely, 
that of exercising the intellect rather than the memory. An anec- 
dote was dictated, generally something from every-day life, or per- 
haps a trait from the lifer of Frederick the Great ; on this the boy 
wrote dialogues and moral reflections in Latin and German. Some 
of these have been preserved and published ; a glance at them shows 
what a mastery over Latin was achieved in his eighth year. 
We can never be quite certain that the hand of the master is not 
mingled with that of the child; but the very method of independence 
which the master throughout pursued is contrary to a supposition of 
his improving the exercises, although the style is certainly above 
what even advanced pupils usually achieve. Dr. Wisemann of 
Frankfurt, to whom we are indebted for these exercises and com- 
positions, written during Goethe's. sixth, seventh, and eighth years, 
thinks there can be no doubt of their being the unassisted produc- 
tions of the boy. In one of the dialogues there is a pun which 
proves that the dialogue was written in Latin first, and then 
translated into German. It is this: the child is making wax figures, 
his father asks him why he does not relinquish such trivialities. 
The word used is nuces, which, meaning trivialities in a metaphorical 
sense, is by the boy wilfully interpreted in its ordinary sense, as 
nuts — ^^ cera nunc ludo non nucibus" — ^I play with wax, not with 
nuts. The German word nii^se means nuts simply, and has no 
metaphorical meaning. 

Here is one of his moral reflections. '^ Horatius and Cicero were 
indeed Heathens, yet more sensible than many Christians ; for the 
one says silver is baser than gold, gold than virtue ; and the other 
says nothing is so beautiful as virtue. Moreover, many Heathens 
have surpassed Christians in virtue. Who was truer in friendship 
than Damon ? more generous than Alexander ? more just than Aris- 
tides ? more abstinent than Diogenes ? more patient than Socrates ? 
more humane than Vespasian ? more industrious than Apelles and 
Demosthenes ?" Platitudes these, doubtless ; but they are platitudes 
which serve many as the ripe maxims of maturity. They give us a 
notion of the boy being somewhat " old-fashioned," and they show 
great progress in culture. His progress in Greek was remark- 
able, as may be seen from his published exercises. Italian he 
learned by listening to his father teaching Cornelia. He pretended to 
bo occupied with his own lesson, and caught up all that was said. 
French, too, he learned, as the exercises testify ; and thus before he 
is eight, we find him writing German, French, Italian, Latin, and 



He was, in fact, a precocious child. This will probably startle 
many readers, especially if they have adopted the current notion 
that precocity is a sign of disease, and that marvellous children are 
necessarily evanescent finiits which never ripen, early blossoms which 
wither early. Ohservatnm fere est celerius occidere festinatam maturi- 
tatem, says Quintilian, in the mournful passage which records the 
loss of his darling son ; and many a proud parent has seen his hopes 
frustrated by early death, or by matured mediocrity following the bril- 
liant promise. It may help to do away with some confusion on this 
subject, if we bear in mind that men distinguish themselves by re- 
ceptive capacity and by productive capacity ; they learn, and they in- 
vent. In men of the highest class these two qualities are united. 
Shakespeare and Goethe are not less remarkable for the variety of 
their knowledge, than for the activity of their invention. But 
as we call the child clever who learns his lessons rapidly, and the 
child clever who shows wit, sagacity, and invention, this ambi- 
guity of phrase has led to surprise when the child who was " so 
clever'^ at school, turns out a mediocre man ; or, conversely, when the 
child who was a dunce at school, turns out a man of genius. 

Goethe^s precocity was nothing abnormal. It was the activity of 
a mind at once greatly receptive and greatly productive. Through 
life he manifested the same eager desire for knowledge, not in the 
least alarmed by that bugbear of " knowledge stifling originality,^* 
which alarms some men of questionable genius and unquestionable 
ignorance. He knew that if abundant fuel stifles miserable fires, it 
makes the great fire blaze. 

" Ein Quidam sagt : ' Ich bin von keiner Schule ; 

Eein Meister lebt mit dem ich buhle ; 

Auch bin ich weit davon entfemt 

Da88 ich von Todten was gelemt.' 

Das heisst, wenn ich ihn recht verstand : 

' Ich bin ein Narr auf eigne Hand !* "• 

In the summer of 1754 the old house was entirely rebuilt, "Wolf- 
gang officiating at the ceremony of laying the foundation, dressed as 
a little bricklayer. The quick, observant boy founa much in this 
rebuilding of the paternal house to interest him ; Wb chatted with 
the workmen, learning their domestic circumstances, and learning , 
• An exquisite epigram, which may be rendered thus : — ; 

An author boasting said : " I follow none ; ^ 
I owe my wisdom to myself alone ; v " 

To neither ancient nor to modem sage 
Am I indebted for a single page.** — 
To place this boasting in its proper licht : 
This author is — ^a Fool i^ his own R^ht ! 


sometliiiig of the builder's art, which in after years so often occapied 
him. This event, moreover, led to his being sent to a friend during 
the restoration of the upper part of the house — ^for the family in- 
habited the house during its reconstruction, which was made story 
by story from the ground upwards — and the event also led to his 
being sent to school. 

Yiehoff thinks that Germany would have had quite another Groethe 
had the child been kept at a public school till he went to the uni- 
versity ; and quotes Gervinus to the effect that Goethe's home edu- 
cation prevented his ever thoroughly appreciating history, and the 
struggles of the masses. Not accepting the doctrine that Character 
is formed by Circumstances, I cannot accept the notion of school life 
affecting the poet to this extent. We have only to reflect how many 
men are educated at public schools mithout their imbibing a love of 
history and sympathy with the masses, to see that Goethe's pecu- 
liarities must have had some other source than home education. 
That source lay in his character. Moreover, it is extremely question- 
able whether Goethe could have learned to sympathise with the masses 
in a school of one of the German imperial towns, where there could 
be no '' masses," but only close corporations, ruled and ruling ac- 
cording to narrow and somewhat sordid ideas. From intercourse 
with the sons of Frankfort citizens, no patriotism, certainly no re- 
publicanism, was to be learned. Nor was the public teaching, es- 
pecially the historical teaching, likely to counteract this influence, or 
to inspire the youth with great national sympathies. Those ideas 
had not penetrated schools and universities. History, as taught by 
Schiller and Heeren, was undreamed of. '^ When I entered at 
Tubingen in 1826,^' writes Mr. Demmler to me, " the university of 
Paulus, Schelling, Hegel, and, in days of yore, of Melanchthon, 
Reuchlin, and Kepler, traditions were still surviving of the lectures 
of Rosier, professor of history. In one of them, as I was told by a 
fellow of the college who had heard it, the old cynical sceptic said, 
' As regards the Maid of Orleans, I conclude she was a cow girl, 
and was, moreover, on a very friendly footing with the young 
oflicers.' Another time he said, ' Homer was a blind schoolmaster 
and wandering minstrel, and I cannot comprehend the fuss that is 
made about his poems.' " If this was the man who instructed Schel- 
ling and Hegel (1790-94), we may form some estimate of what 
Goethe would have heard forty years earlier. 

One thing, however, he did learn at school, and that was disgust 
at schools. He, carefully trained at home, morally as well as phy- 
sically, had to mingle with schoolboys who were what most school- 


boys are, — dirty, rebellious, cruel, low in their tastes and habits. 
The contrast was very painful to him, and he was glad when the 
completion of his father's house once more enabled him to receive 
instruction at home. 

One school anecdote he relates which well illustrates his power of 
self-command. Fighting during school time was severely punished. 
One day the teacher did not arrive at the appointed time. The boys 
played together till the hour was nearly over, and then three of them, 
left alone with Wolfgang, resolved to drive him away. They cut up 
a broom, and reappeared with the switches. '' I saw their design, 
but I at once resolved not to resist them till the clock struck. They 
began pitilessly lashing my legs. I did not stir, although the pain 
made the minutes terribly long. My wrath deepened with my en- 
durance, and on the first stroke of the hour I grasped one of my 
assailants by the hair and hurled him to the ground, pressing my 
knee on his back ; I drew the head of the second, who attacked 
me behind, under my arm and nearly throttled him ; with a dex- 
terous twist I threw the third flat on the ground. They bit, scratched, 
and kicked. But my soul was swelling with one feeling of revenge, 
and I knocked their heads together without mercy. A shout of 
murder brought the household round us. But the scattered switches 
and my bleeding legs bore witness to my story.** 





It is psqfoundly false to say that '/Character is formed by Circum- 
stance ^'Anless the phrase, with un^hilosophic equivocation, include 
the whcrfe complexity of circumstances, from Creation downwards. 
Character is to outward Circumstance what the Organism is to the 
outward world : living in it, but not specially determined hy it. A 
wondrous variety of vegetable and animal organisms live and flourish 
under circumstances which furnish the means of living, but do not 
determine the specific forms of each organism. In the same way 
vai^is characters live under identical circumstances, nourished by 
them, not formed by them. Each character assimilates, from sur- 
rounding circumstance, that which is by it assimilable, rejecting the 
rest ; just as from the earth and air the plant draws those elements 
which will serve it as food, rejecting the rest. Every biologist knows 
that Circumstance has a modifying influence ; but he also knows that 
those modifications are only possible within certain limits. Abund- 
ance of food and peculiar treatment will modify the ferocity of a wild 
beast ; but it will not make the lion a lamb. I have known a cat^ 
living at a mill, from abundance of fish food take spontaneously to 
the water; but the cat was distinctively a cat, and not an otter, 
although she had lost her dread of water. Goethe truly says that if 
Raphael were to paint peasants at an inn he could not help making 
them look like Apostles, whereas Teniers would make his Apostles 
look like Dutch boors ; each artist working according to his own in- 
born genius. 

Instead, therefore, of saying that man is the creature of Circum- 
stance, it would be nearer the mark to say that man is the architect 
of Circumstance. It is Character which builds em existence out of 
Circumstance. Our strength is measured by our plastic power. 
From the same materials one man builds palaces, another hovels, 
one warehouses, another villas ; bricks and mortar are mortar and 
bricks, imtil the architect can make them something else. Thus it 


is that in the same family^ in the same oircnmstancea^ one man rears 
a stately edifice^ while his brother^ vacillating and incompetent, Uves 
for ever amid rains : the block of granite which was an obstacle on 
the pathway of the weak, becomes a stepping-stone on the pathway 
of the strong.* 

K the reader agrees with this conception of the influence of cir- 
cumstances, he will see that I was justified in laying some stress on 
Goethe's social position, though I controverted ViehoflF and Gervinus 
on the point of school education. The continued absence of Want is. 
one of those permanent and powerful conditions which necessarily 
modify a character. The well-fed lion loses his ferocity. But the 
temporary and incidental effect of school education, and other cir- 
cumstances of minor importance, can never be said to modify a cha- 
racter ; they only more or less accelerate its development. 

Goethe furnishes us with a striking illustration of the degree in 
which outward circumstances affect character. He became early the 
favourite of several eminent painters, was constantly in their ateliers, 
playing with them, and making them explain their works to him. 
He was, moreover, a frequent visitor at picture sales and galleries, 
till at last his mind became so familiarized with the subjects treated 
by artists, that he could at once tell what historical or biblical sub- 
ject was represented in every painting he saw. Indeed, his imagi- 
nation was so stimulated by familiarity with these works, that in his 
tenth or eleventh year he wrote a description of twelve possible pic- 
tures on the history of Joseph, and some of his conceptions were 
jthought worthy of being executed by artists of renown. \ It may be , 
further added, in anticipation, that during the whole of his life he 
was thrown much with painters and pictures, and was for many 
years tormented with the desire of becoming an artist. If, therefore. 
Circumstance had the power of forming faculty, we ought to find 
ihim a painter^ What is the fact? The fact is that he had not the 
taculty which makes a painter ; he had no faculty, properly speak- 
ing, for plastic art, and years of labour, aided by the instruction and 
counsel of the best masters, were powerless to give him even a 
respectable facility. All therefore that Circumstance did in this case 
was to give his other faculties the opportunity of exercising them- 
selves in art ; it did not create the special faculty required. Circum- 

• " The greatness or the smaOness of a man is determined for him at his birth, a« 
strictly as it is determined for a fruit, whether it is to be a currant or an apricot. 
Education, fisivourable circumstances, resolution, industry, may do much, in a certain 
sense they do everything ; that is to say, they determine whether the poor apricot 
shall faU in the form of a gteen bead, blighted by the east wind, and be trodden 
imder foot ; or whether it shall expand into tender pride and sweet brightness of 
golden velvet." — Buskin, Modem Painters, iii, p. 44. 


stance can create no faculty : it is food, not nutrition ; opportunity, 
not character. 

Other boys, besides Goethe, heard the Lisbon earthquake eagerly 
discussed ; but they had not their religious doubts awakened by it, 
as his were awakened in his sixth year. This catastrophe, which, in 
1755, spread consternation over Europe, he has described as having 
greatly perturbed him. The narratives he heard of a magnificent 
capital suddenly smitten — churches, houses, towers, falling with a 
crash — ^the bursting land vomiting flames and smoke — and sixly 
thousand souls perishing in an instant — shook his faith in the bene- 
ficence of Providence. " God, the creator and preserver of heaven 
and earth,'^ he says, '^ whom the first article of our creed declared to 
be so wise and benignant, had not displayed paternal care in thus 
consigning both the just and the unjust to the same destruction. In 
vfidn my young mind strove to resist these impressions. It was im- 
possible ; the more so as the wise and religious themselves could not 
agree upon the view to be taken of the event.^^ 

At this very time Voltaire was agitating the same doubts. 

" Direz-votiB^ en voyant cet amas de victimes : 
Dien B'est veng^, lenr mort est le prix de lenr crimeB P 
Quel crime, quelle fiinte ont oommis oea enfiuiB 
8iir le sein xnatemel ^cras^s et sanglans ? 
Lisbonne qni n'est plus, eM-elle plus de yicee 
Qae Londree, que Paris, plong^s dans les d^oee P 
Lisbonne est abtm^e; et Ton danse Ik Paris." 

We are not, however, to suppose that the child rushed hastily to such 
a conclusion. He debated it in his own mind as he heard it debated 
around him. Bettina records that on his coming one day &om church, 
where he had listened to a sermon on the subject, in which God's 
goodness was justified, his father asked hiTn what impression the 
sermon had made. " Why,'' said he, '' it may after all be a much 
simpler matter than the clergyman thinks; God knows very well 
that an immortal soul can receive no injury from a mortal accident." 
Doubts once raised would of course recur, and the child began to 
settle into a serious disbelief in the benignity of Providence, learning 
to consider God as the wrathful Deity depicted by the Hebrews. 
This was strengthened by the foolish conduct of those around him, 
who, on the occasion of a terrible thunderstorm which shattered the 
windows, dragged him and his sister into a dark passage, '^ where 
the whole household, distracted with fear, tried to conciliate the 
angry Deity by frightful groans and prayers." Many children are 
thus made sceptics ; but in a deeply reflective mind such thoughts 


never long abide^ at least not under the influences of modem culture^ 
which teaches that Evil is essentially a narrow finite thing, thrown 
into obscurity on any comprehensive view of the Universe ; and that 
the amount of evil massed together from every quarter must be held 
as small compared with the broad beneficence of Nature. 

The doubts which troubled Wolfgang gradually subsided. In his 
family circle he was the silent reflective listener to constant theolo- 
gical debates. The various sects separating from the established 
church all seemed to be animated by the one desire of approaching 
the Deity, especially through Christ, more nearly than seemed pos- 
sible through the ancient forms. It occurred to him that he, also^ 
might make such an approach, and in a more direct way. Unable 
to ascribe a form to the Deity, he '^ resolved to seek Him in His 
works, and in the good old Bible fashion, to build an altar to Him.'' 
For this purpose he selected some types, such as ores and other na- 
tural productions, and arranged them in symbolical order on the 
elevations of a music stand ; on the apex was to be a flame typical of 
the soul's aspiration, and for this a pastille did duty. Sunrise was 
awaited with impatience. The glittering of the house tops gave 
signal ; he applied a burning-glass to the pastille, and thus was the 
worship consummated by a priest of seven years old, alone in his 
bedroom I"* 

Lest the trait just dted should make us forget that we are tracing 
the career of a child, it may be well to recall the anecdote related by 
Bettina, who had it from his mother ; it will serve to set us right 
as to the childishness. One day his mother, seeing him from her 
window cross the street with his comrades, was amused with the 
gravity of his carriage, and asked laughingly, if he meant thereby to 
distinguish himself from his companions. The little fellow replied, 
" I begin with this. Later on in life I shaU distinguish myself in far 
other ways." 

On another occasion, he plagued her with questions as to whether 
the stars would perform all they had promised at his birth. " Why," 
said she, ''must you have the assistance of the stars, when other 
people get on very well without f " '' I am not to be satisfied with 
what does for other people V said the juvenile Jupiter. 

He had just attained his seventh year when the Seven Years' War 
broke out. His grandfather espoused the cause of Austria, his father 
that of Frederick. This difference of opinion brought with it con- 

* A mwiiin-r anecdote is related of himself by that stranffe Bomancist^ once the 
idol of his day, and now almost entirely forgotten, Beetif de la Bretonne.- °^^ 
I49 IUumin48, par G£babd db Nisyal. 


tentions, and finally separation between the families. The exploits 
of the Prussian army were enthusiastically cited on the one side and 
depreciated on the other. It was an all-absorbing topic, awakening 
passionate partisanship. Men looked with strange feelings on the 
struggle which the greatest captain of his age was .maintaining 
against Russia, Austria, and France. The ruler of not more than 
five millions of men was fighting unaided against the rulers of 'more 
than a hundred millions j and, in spite of his alleged violation of 
honour, it was difficult to hear without enthusiasm of his brilliant 
exploits. Courage and genius in desperate circumstances always 
awaken sympathy; and men paused not to ask what justification 
there was for the seizure of Silesia, nor why the Saxon standards 
drooped heavily in the churches of Berlin. The roar of victorious 
cannon stunned the judgment ; the intrepid general was blindly wor- 
shipped. The Seven Years' War soon became a German epos. Ar- 
chenholtz wrote its history (1791) ; and this work — noisy with guard- 
room bragging and folly, the rant of a niihs glariosus turned philo- 
sophe — was nevertheless received with enthusiasm, was translated 
into Latin, and read in schools in company with Tacitus and Caasar. 

This Seven Years' War was a circumstance from which, as it is 
thought, Goethe ought to have received some epic inspiration. He 
received from it precisely that which was food to his character. He 
caught the grand enthusiasm, but, as he says, it was the personality 
of tl\e hero, rather than the greatness of his cause, which made him 
rejoice in every victory, copy the songs of triumph, and the lampoons 
directed against Austria. He learnt now the efiects of party spirit. 
At the table of his grandfather he had to hear galling sarcasms, and 
vehement declamations showered on his hero. He heard Frederick 
" shamefully slandered." " And as in my sixth year, after the Lisbon 
earthquake, I doubted the beneficence of Providence, so now, on ac- 
count of Frederick, I began to doubt the justice of the world." 

Over the doorway of the house in which he was bom was a lyre 
and a star, announcing, as every interpreter will certify, that a poet 
was to make that house illustrious. The poetic faculty early mani- 
fested itself. We have seen him inventing conclusions for his 
mother's stories ; and as he grew older he began to invent stories 
for the amusement of his playfellows, after he had filled his mind 
with images — 

*' Lone sitting on the shores of old Bomonce". 

He had read the Orhis Pictus, Ovid's Metamorphoses, Homer's Iliad 
in prose, Virgil in the original, Telemachus, Robinson Ginisoe, An-son's 


Vayages, with such books as Fortunatus, The Wandering Jew, The 
Four Sons of Aymon, etc. He also read and learned by heart most 
of the poets of that day : Gellert, Haller, who had really some gleams 
of poetry ; and Canitz, Hagedom, Drollinger, — ^writers then much 
beloved, now slumbering upon dusty shelves, unvisited, except by 
an occasional historian, Mid byspiders of an inquiring^mind. 

Not only did he tell stories, he wrote them also, as we gather from 
a touching little anecdote preserved by Bettina. The small-pox had 
carried off his little brother Jacob. To the surprise of his mother, 
Wolfgang shed no tears, believing Jacob to be with God in heaven. 
" Did you not love your Kttle brother, then,*' asked his mother, 
^' that you do not grieve for his loss V* He ran to his room, and 
from under the bed drew a quantity of papers on which he had written 
stories and lessons. '^ All these I had written that I might teach 
them to him,^' said the child. He was then nine years old. 

Shortly before the death of his brother he was startled by the 
sound of the warder's trumpet from the chief tower, announcing 
the approach of troops. This was in January 1759. It seemed as 
if the warder never would cease blowing his sounding horn. On 
came the troops in continuous masses, and the rolling tumult of their 
drums called all the women to the windows, and all the boys in ad- 
miring crowds into the streets. The troops were French. They 
seized the guard-house, and in a little while the city was a camp. 
To make matters worse, these troops were at war with Frederick, 
whom Wolfgang and his father worshipped. They were soon billeted 
through the town, and things relapsed into their usual routine, varied 
by a military occupation. In the Goethe-house an important person 
was quartered, — Cou^it de Thorane, the king's lieutenant, a man of 
taste and munificence, who assembled round him artists and celebri- 
ties, and won the affectionate admiration of Wolfgang, though he 
fiailed to overcome the hatred of the old councillor. 

This occupation of Frankfurt brought with it many advantages to 
Goethe. It relaxed the severity of paternal book education, and 
began another kind of tuition — that of life and manners. The per- 
petual marching through the streets, the brilliant parades, the music, 
the " pomp, pride, and circumstance" were not without their in- 
fluence. Moreover, he now gained conversational familiarity with 
French,* and acquaintance with the theatre. The French nation 
always carries its " civilization'' with it, namely, a cafS and a theatre. 
In Frankfurt both were immediately opened, and Goethe was pre- 

* He says that he had never learned French before; bat this is erroneous, as his 
exercises prove. 


sented with a *' free admission'' to the theatre, a privilege he used 
daily, not always understanding, but always enjoying what he saw. 
In tragedy the measured rhythm, slow utterance, and abstract lan- 
guage enabled him to understand the scenes, better than he under- 
stood comedy, wherein the language, besides moving amid the details 
of private life, was also more rapidly spoken. But at the theatre, 
boys are not critical, and do not need to understand a play in order 
to enjoy it.* A Racine, found upon his father's shelves, was eagerly 
studied, and the speeches were declaimed with more or less appreci- 
ation of their meaning. 

The theatre, and acquaintance with a chattering Uttle braggart, 
named Derones, gave him such familiarity with the language, that in 
a month he surprised his parents with his facility. This Derones 
was acquainted with the actors, and introduced him '^behind the 
scenes." At ten years of age to go ^' behind the scenes" means a 
great deal. We shall see hereafter how early he was introduced be- 
hind the scenes of life. For the present let it be noted that he was 
a frequenter of the green-room, and admitted into the dressing- 
room, where the actors and actresses dressed and undressed with 
philosophic disregard to appearances ; and this, from repeated visits, 
he also learned to regard as quite natural. 

A grotesque scene took place between these two boys. Derones 
excelled, as he affirmed, in ^' affairs of honour." He had been en- 
gaged in several, and had always managed to disarm his antagonist, 
and then nobly forgive him. One day he pretended that Wolfgang 
had insulted him : satisfaction was peremptorily demanded, and a 
duel was the result. Imagine Wolfgang, aged twelve, arrayed in 
shoes and silver buckles, fine woollen stockings, dark serge breeches, 
green coat with gold facings, a waistcoat of gold cloth, cut out of his 
father's wedding waistcoat, his hair curled and powdered, his hat 
under his arm, and little sword, with silk sword-knot. This little 
mannikin stands opposite his antagonist with theatrical formality; 
swords clash, thrusts come quick upon each other, the combat grows 
hot, when the point of Derones' rapier lodges in the bow of Wolf- 

* Well do I remember, as a child of the same age, my intense delight at the 
French theatre, although certainly no three consecative phrases could have been 
understood by me. Nay, so great was this delight, that although we regarded the 
French custom, of opening theatres on Sunday, with t^e profoundest sense of its 
"wickedness", the attraction became irresistible : and one Sunday nifi^it, at Nantes, 
my brother and I stole into the theatre with pricking consciences. To this day I 
see the actors gesticulating, and hear the audience cry hist bis! redemanding a 
couplet (in which we joined with a stout British encore!); and to this day I 
remember how we laughed at what we certainly understood only in passin^g 
glimpses. Goethe's ignorance of the language was, I am sure, no obstacle to his 


gang's Bword-knot ; hereupon the French boy, with great magnan- 
imity, declares that he is satisfied I The two embrace, and retire to 
a caf(5 to refresh themselves with a glass of almond milk.* 

Theatrical ambition, which stirs us all, soon prompted Wolfgang. 
As a child he had imitated Terence ; he was now to make a more 
elaborate effort in the style of Piron. When the play was completed 
he submitted it to Derones, who, pointing out several grammatical 
blunders, promised to examine it more critically, and talked of giving 
it hM support with the manager. Wolfgang saw, in his mind's eye, 
the name of his play already placarded at the comers of the street I 
Unhappily Derones in his critical capacity was merciless. He picked 
the play to pieces, and stunned the poor author with the critical jar- 
gon of that day \ proclaimed the absolute integrity of the Three 
Unities, abused the English, laughed at the Germans, and maintained 
the sovereignty of French taste in so confident a style, that his listener 
was without a reply. If silenced, however, he was not convinced. 
It set him thinking on those critical canons. He studied the treatise 
on the Unities by Comeille, and the prefaces of Bacine. The result 
of these studies was profound contempt for that system ; and it is, 
perhaps, to Derones that we owe something of the daring defiance of 
all '' rule,'' which startled Germany in Qoeiz von Berlichingen. 

* To remove incredulity, it may be well to remind the reader that to this day 
German youths fight out their quarrels with swords— not fists. 




At length, June 1761, the French quitted Frankfiirt; and studies 
were seriously resumed. Mathematics, music, and drawing were 
commenced under paternal superintendence. For mathematics Wolf- 
gang had no aptitude ; for music little ; he learned to play on the 
harpsichord, and subsequently on the violoncello, but he never at- 
tained any proficiency. Drawing continued through life a pleasant 

Left now to the calm of uninterrupted studies, he made gigantic 
strides. Even the hours of recreation were filled with some useful 
occupation. He added English to his polyglott store ; and to keep 
up his several languages, he invented a Romance, wherein six or 
seven brothers and sisters scattered over the world corresponded 
with each other. The eldest describes in good German all the inci- 
dents of his travels ; his sister answers in womanly style with short 
sharp sentences, and nothing but full stops, much as Siegivart was 
afterwards written. Another brother studies theology, and therefore 
writes in Latin, with postscripts in Greek. A third and a fourth, 
clerks at Hamburgh and Marseilles, take English and French ; Italian 
is given to a musician ; while the youngest, who remains at home, 
writes in Jew- German. This romance led him to a more accurate 
study of geography. Having placed his characters in various parts 
of the globe, he was not satisfied till he had a distinct idea of these 
localities, so that the objects and events should be consonant with 
probability. While trying to master the strange dialect — Jew-Ger- 
man — he was led to the study of Hebrew. As the original language 
of the Old Testament this seemed to him an indispensable acquisi- 
tion. His father consented to give him a Hebrew master; and 
although he attained no scholarship in that difiicult language, yet 
the reading, translating, and committing to memory of various parts 
of the Bible, brought out the meaning more vividly before him ; as 
every one will understand who compares the lasting effect produced 
by the laborious school reading of Sallust and Livy, with the facile 


reading of Robertson and Hume. The Bible made a profound im- 
pression upon him. To a boy of his constitutional reflectiveness, 
the severe study of this book could not fail to exercise a deep and 
permeating influence ; nor, at the same time, in one so accustomed 
to think for himself, could it fail to awaken certain doubts. '' The 
contradiction,'' he says, "between the actual or possible, and tra- 
dition, forcibly arrested me. I often posed my tutors with the sun 
standing still on "Gideon, and the moon in the valley of Ajalon ; not 
to mention other incongruities and impossibilities. All my doubts 
were now awakened, as in order to master the Hebrew I studied 
the Uteral version by Schmidt, printed under the text.'' 

One result of these Hebrew studies was a biblical poem on Joseph 
and his Brethren ; which he dictated to a poor half idiot who lived 
in his father's house, and who had a mania for copying or writing 
under dictation. Goethe soon found the process of dictation of great 
service ; and through life it continued to be his favourite mode of 
composition. All his best thoughts and expressions, he says, came 
to him while walking ; he could do nothing seated. 

To these multifarious studies in Literature must be added multi- 
farious studies of Life. The old Fr^ikfurt city with its busy crowds, 
its fairs, its mixed population, and its many sources of excitement, 
offered great temptations, and great pasture to so desultory a genius. 
This is perhaps a case wherein Circumstance may be seen influencing 
the direction of Character. A boy of less impressionable nature, of 
less many-sided curiosity, would have lived in such a city undis- 
turbed ; some eyes would see little of the variety, some minds would 
be unsolicited by the exciting objects. But Goethe's desultory, be- 
cause impulsive, nature found continual excitement in fresh objects ; 
and he was thus led to study many things, to grasp at many forms of 
life, instead of concentratiug himself upon a few. A large continuity 
of thought and effort was perhaps radically uncongenial to such a 
temperament ; yet one cannot help speculating whether under other 
circumstances he might not have achieved it. Had he been reared in 
a quiet Uttle old German town, where he would have daily seen the 
same faces in the silent streets, and come in contact with the same cha- 
racters, his culture might have been less various, but it might perhaps 
have been deeper. Had he been reared in the country, with only 
the changing seasons and the sweet serenities of Nature to occupy 
his attention when released from study, he would certainly have been 
a different poet. The long summer afternoons spent in lonely ram- 
bles, the deepening twiUghts filled with shadowy visions, the slow 
uniformity of his external life necessarily throwing him more and 


more upon the subtler diversities of inward experience, would in- 
evitably have inflnenced his genius in quite different directions, 
would have animated his works with a very different spirit. Yet 
who shall say that to him this would have been all gain ? Who shall 
say that it would not have been a loss ? For such an organiza- 
tion as his the life he led was perhaps the veiy best. He was 
desultory, and the varieties of objects which solicited his attention, 
while they helped to encourage that tendency, also helped to nourish 
his mind with images and experience, such as afterwards became the 
richest material for his art. His mind was concrete, and in this 
many-coloured life at Frankfurt, it found abundant material. 

At any rate it is idle to speculate on what would have been ; we 
must concern ourselves with what was. The boy saw much of life, 
in the lower as in the upper classes. He passed from the society of 
the Count de Thorane, and of the artists whom the Count assembled 
round him (from whom the boy learned something of the technical 
details of painting), to the society of the Jews in the strange, old, 
filthy, but deeply-interesting Judengasse ; or to that of various arti- 
zans, in whose shops his curiosity found perpetual food. The Jews 
were doubly interesting to him : as social pariahs, over whom there 
hovered a mingled mystery of terror and contempt ; and as descend- 
ants of the Chosen People, who preserved the language, the opinions, 
and many of the customs of the old biblical race. He was impressed 
by their adherence to old customs ; by their steadfastness and cou- 
rageous activity; by their strange features and accents; by their 
bright cleverness and good nature. The pretty Jewish maidens, 
also, smiled agreeably upon him. He began to mingle with them ; 
managed to get permission to attend some of their ceremonies ; and 
attended their schools. As to artizans, he was all his life curious 
about their handicrafts, and fond of being admitted into their family 
circles. Scott himself was not fonder of talking to one ; nor did 
Scott make better use of such manifold experience. Frederika's 
sister told her visitor that Ooethe knew several handicrafts, and had 
even learned basket-making from a lame man in Sesenheim. Here 
in Frankfrui} the boy was welcome in many a shop. The Jeweller, 
Lautensack, gladly admitted him to witness the mysteries of his art, 
while he made the bouquet of jewels for the Kaiser, or a diamond 
snuff-box which Bath Croethe had ordered as a present for his 
wife ; the boy eagerly questioning him respecting precious stones, 
and the engravings which the Jeweller possessed. Nothnagel, the 
painter, had established an oil-cloth manufactory ; and the boy not 
only learned all the processes, but lent a helping hand. 


Seeides these forms of life^ there were others whose inflnence 
must not be overlooked ; one of these brings before us the Praulein 
von Klettenburg, of whom we first get a glimpse in connection with 
his Confirmation^ which took place at this period^ 1763. The readers 
of Wilhehn Meister are familiar with this gentle and exquisite cha- 
racter, where she is represented in the " Confessions of a Beautiful 
Soul/'* In the '' Confessions** we see that the ''piety*' and retire- 
ment are represented less as the consequences of evangelical illumi- 
nation, than of moral serenity and purity shrinking from contact.with 
a world of which it has been her fate to see the coarsest features. 
The real Fraulein von Klettenburg it is perhaps now impossible to 
separate from the ideal so beautifully painted by Goethe. On him 
her influence was avowedly very great, both at this period and sub- 
sequently. It was not so much the effect of religious discussion, as 
the experience it gave him of a deeply religious nature. She was 
neither bigot nor prude. Her faith was an inner Ught which shed 
mild radiiuice around her.f Moved by her influence, he wrote a 
series of Religwus Odes, after the fashion of that day, and greatly 
pleased his father by presenting them copied neatly in a quarto 
volume. His father begged that every year he would present him 
with such a volume. 

A very different sort of female influence has now to be touched on. 
His heart began to flutter with the emotions of love. He was not 
quite fifteen, when Gretchen, the sister of one of his disreputable 
companions, first set his youthful pulses throbbing to the movements 
of the divine passion. The story is told in a rambling way in the 
Autobiography, and may here be very briefly dismissed. He had 
often turned his poetical talents to practical purposes, namely, 
writing wedding and funeral verses, the produce of which went in 
joyous feastings. In these he was almost daily thrown with Gretchen; 
but she, though kind, treated him as a child, and never permitted 
the sUghtest familiarity. A merry life they led, in picnics and plea- 
sure bouts ; and the coronation of the Kaiser Joseph II. was the 
occasion of increased festivity. One night, after the fatigues of a 
sight-seeing day, the hours rolled unheeded over these thoughtless, 
merry heads, and the stroke of midnight startled them. To his dis- 

• Or as we in England, following Carlyle, have been misled into calling it, th® 
" Confessions of a Fair Saint." The Bchone 8eele—-une heLU dme, was one of th 
&Tourite epithets of the last century. Goethe applies it to Klopstock, who wa^ 
neither " saint nor fair." 

t In VABNHAaBN VON Ensb's VermisehU Sehriften (vol. iii, p. 33), the reader will 
find a few significant details respecting this remarl^ble person, and some of her 


may^ Wolfgang found he had forgotten the door-key with which 
hitherto he had been able to evade paternal knowledge of his late 
honrs. Gretchen proposed that they should all remain together, and 
pass the night in conversation. This was agreed on. But, as in all 
such cases, the effort was vain. Fatigue weighed down their eyelids ; 
conversation became feebler and feebler \ two strangers already slum- 
bered in comers of the room \ one friend sat in a comer with his 
betrothed, her head reposing on his shoulder \ another crossing his 
arms upon the table, rested his head upon them — and snored. The 
noisy room had become silent. Gretchen and her lover sat by the 
window talking in undertones. Fatigue at length conquered her 
also, and drooping her head upon his shoulder she too slept. With 
tender pride he supported that delicious burden, till like tiie rest he 
gave way, and slept. 

It was broad day when he awoke. Gretchen was standing before 
a mirror arranging her cap. She smiled on him more amiably than 
ever she had smiled before ; and pressed his hand tenderly as he 
departed. But now, while he seemed drawing nearer to her, the de- 
nouement was at hand. Some of the joyous companions had been 
guilty of nefarious practices, such as forgeries of documents. His 
friend and Gretchen were involved in the accusation, though falsely. 
Wolfgang had to undergo a severe investigation, which, as he was 
perfectly innocent, did not much aflSict him ; but an affiction came 
out of the investigation, for Gretchen in her deposition concerning 
him, said, '^ I will not deny that I have often seen him, and seen him 
with pleasure, but I treated him as a child, and my affection for him 
was merely that of a sister.^' His exasperation may be imagined. 
A boy aspiring to the dignity of manhood knows few things more 
galling than to be treated as a boy by the girl whom he has honoured 
with his homage. He suffered greatly at this destruction of his ro- 
mance : nightly was his pillow wet with tears ; food became repug- 
nant to him ; life had no more an object. 

But pride came to his aid; pride and that volatility of youth, 
which compensates for extra sensitiveness by extra faciUty for for- 
getting. He threw himself into study, especially of philosophy, 
under guidance of a tutor, a sort of Wagnepr to the young Faust. 
This tutor, who preferred dusty quartos to all the landscapes in the 
world, used to banter him upon being a true German, such as Tacitus 
describes, avid of the emotions excited by solitude and scenery. 
Laughter weaned him not from the enjoyment. He was enjoying 
his first sorrow : the luxury of melancholy, the romance of a forlorn 
existence, drove him into solitude. Like Bellerophon he fed upon 


his own heart, away from the haunts of men. He made frequent 
walking excursions. Those mountains which from earliest child- 
hood had^tood so distant, "haunting him Hke a passion/' were now 
his favourite resorts. He visited Homburg, Kronburg, Konigstein, 
Wiesbaden, Schwalbach, Biberich. These filled his mind with lovely 

Severer studies were not neglected. To please his father he was 
diligent in appUcation to jurisprudence ; to please himself he was still 
more diligent in literature : Morhof's Polyhistor, Oessner^s Isagoge, 
and Bayle^s Dictionary , filled him with the ambition to become an 
University Professor. Herein, as, indeed, throughout his career, 
we see the strange impressibility of his nature, which, like the fabled 
chameleon, takes its colour from every tree it lies under. 

The melancholy fit did not last long. A circle of Uvely friends, 
among them Horn, of whom we shall hear more anon, drew him into 
gaiety again. Their opinion of his talents appears to have been 
enormous ; their love for him, and interest in all he did, was of the 
kind which followed him through life. No matter what his mood — 
in the wildest student-period, in the startling genius-period, and in 
the diplomatic-period — whatever ofience his manner created, was 
soon forgotten in the irresistible fascination of his nature. The 
secret of that fascination was his own overflowing lovingness, and 
his genuine interest in every individuality, however opposite to his 

With these imperfect glances at his early career we close this 
book, on his departure from home for the university of Leipsic. 
Before finally quitting this period, we may take a survey of the cha" 
racterisiics it exhibits, as some guide in our future inquiries. 




As in the soft round lineaments of childhood we trace the features 
which after years will develope into more decided forms, so in the 
moral lineaments of the Child may be traced the characteristics of 
the Man. But an apparent solution of continuity takes place in 
the transition period ; so that the Youth is in many respects unlike 
what he has been in childhood, and what he will be in maturity. In 
youth, when the passions begin to stir, the character is made to 
swerve from the orbit previously traced. Passion, more than Cha- 
racter, rules the hour. Thus we often see the prudent child turn 
out an extravagant youth ; but he crystallizes once more into pru- 
dence, as he hardens with age. 

This was certainly the case with Goethe, who, if he had died young, 
like Shelley or Keats, would have left a name aihong the most 
genial, not to say extravagant, of poets ; but who, living to the age 
of eighty-two, had fifty years of crystallization to acquire a definite 
figure which perplexes critics. In his childhood, scanty as the de- 
tails are which enable us to reconstruct it, we see the main features 
of the man. Let us glance rapidly at them. 

And first of his manysidedness. Seldom has a boy exhibited 
such variety of faculty. The multiplied activity of his life is pre- 
figured in the varied tendencies of his childhood. We see him as an 
orderly, somewhat formal, inquisitive, reasoning, deliberative child, 
a precocious learner, an omnivorous reader, and a vigorous logician 
who thinks for himself — so independent, that at six years of age he 
doubts the beneficence of the Creator ; at seven, doubts the compe- 
tence and justice of the world^s judgment. He is inventive, poetical, 
proud, loving, volatile, with a mind open to aU influences, swayed 
by every gust, and yet, while thus swayed as to the direction of his 
activity, master over that activity. The most diverse characters, the 
most antagonistic opinions interest him. He is very studious : no 
bookworm more so ; alternately, busy with languages, mythology, 
antiquities, law, philosophy, poetry, and religion ; yet he joins in all 


festive scenes, gets familiar with life in varioos forms, and stays out 
late o' nights. He is also troubled by melancholy, dreamy moods, 
forcing him ever and anon into solitude. 

Among the dominant characteristics, however, are seriousness, 
formality, rationality. He is by no means a naughty boy. He gives 
his parents no tremulous anxiety as to what will become of him. 
He seems very much master of himself. It is this which in later 
years perplexed his judges, who could not reconcile this appearance 
of self-mastery, this absence of enthusiasm, with their conceptions of 
a poet. Assuredly he had enthusiasm, if ever man had it : at least, 
if enthusiasm (being " full of the God") means being filled with a 
divine idea, and by its light working steadily. He had little of 
the other kind of enthusiasm — ^that insurrection of the feeUngs car- 
rying away upon their triumphant shoulders the Reason which has 
no longer power to guide them ; for his intellect did not derive its 
main momentum from his feelings. And hence it is that whereas 
the quaUty which first strikes us in most poets is sensibility, with its 
caprices, infirmities, and generous errors; the first quality which 
strikes us in Goethe — the Child and Man, but not the Youth — is 
intellect, with its clearness and calmness. He has also a provoking 
immunity from error. I say provoking, for we all gladly overlook 
the errors of enthusiasm : some, because these errors appeal to our 
compassion ; and some, because these errors establish a community 
of impulse between the sinner and ourselves, forming, as it were, 
broken edges which show us where to look for support — scars which 
tell of wounds we have escaped. Whereas, we are pitiless to the 
cold prudence which shames our weakness and asks no alms from our 
charity. Why do we all preach Prudence, and secretly dislike it ? 
Perhaps, because we dimly feel that life without its generous errors 
might want its lasting enjoyments; and thus the very mistakes 
which arise from an imprudent, unreflecting career, are absolved by 
that instinct which suggests other aims for existence beyond pru- 
dential aims. This is one reason why the erring lives of Genius 
command such deathless sympathy. 

Having indicated so much, I may now ask those who are distressed 
by the cahn, self-sustaining superiority of Goethe in old age, whether, 
on deeper reflection, they cannot reconcile it with their conceptions 
of the poet's nature ? We admire Rationality, but we sympathize 
with Sensibihty. Our dislike of the one arises from its supposed 
incompatibility with the other. But if a man unites the mastery of 
Will and Intellect to the profoundest sensibihty of Emotion, shall we 
not say of him that he has in living synthesis vindicated both what 



we preach and what we love ? That Goethe united these will be 
abundantly shown in this Biography. In the chapters about to 
follow we shall see him wild, restless, aimless, erring, and extrava- 
gant enough to satisfy the most ardent admirer of the vagabond 
nature of genius : the Child and the Man will at times be scarcely 
traceable in the Youth. 

One trait must not be passed over, namely, his impaiient suseeptu 
hility, which, while it prevented his ever thoroughly mastering the 
technic of any one subject, lay at the bottom of his multipUed activity 
in directions so opposed to each other. He was excessively im- 
pressible, caught the impulse from every surrounding influence, and 
was thus never constant to one thing, because his susceptibility 
was connected with an impatience which soon made him weary. 
There are men who learn many languages, and never thoroughly 
master the grammar of one. Of these was Goethe. Easily excited 
to throw his energy in a new direction, he had not the patience 
which begins at the beginning, and rises gradually, slowly into as- 
sured mastery. Like an eagle he swooped down upon his prey ; he 
could not watch for it, with cat-like patience. It is to this impa- 
tience we must attribute the fact of so many works being left frag- 
ments, so many composed by snatches during long intervals. Pro- 
metheus, Mahomet, Die Natiirluhe Tochter, Elpenor, AchiUeis, Nau- 
sikda, remain fragments. Faust, Egmont, Ta^so, Iphigeiiia, Meister, 
were many years in hand. Whatever could be done in a few days — 
while the impulse lasted — ^was done ; longer works were spread over 
a series of years. 


1765 to 1771. 

" In grosaen Stildfcen lemen frOh 

Die jfingsten Knaben was ; * 

Denn manche Biicher lesen sie 

Und li5ren diess und dass ; 
Vom Lieben und vom Kussen 
Sie brauchen's nioht zu wissen ; 
Und mancher ist im zwolften Jalir 
Fast klAger als sein Vater war 
Da er die Mutter HAbm" 

* (Eaer taught me that the Ideal of Beauty is Simplicity and Bepose, and thence 
it follows that no youth can be a Master." 



In the month of October 1 765, Goethe, aged sixteen, arrived in Leip- 
sic, to commence his collegiate life,^ and to lay, as he hoped, the sohd 
foundation of a future professorship. He took lodgings in the Feuer- 
kugel, between the Old and New Markets, and was by the rector of 
the University inscribed on the 19th as student '^in the Bavarian 
nation.*' At that period, and until quite recently, the University 
was classed according to four "Nations'*, viz., the Misnian, the 
Saxon, the Bavarian, and the Polish, When the inscription was 
official, the "nations'' were what in Oxford and Paris are called 
'' tongues" ; when not official, they were students^ clubs, such as 
they exist to this day. Goethe, as a Frankfurter, was placed in the 

If the reader has any vivid recollection of the Leipsio chapters in 
the Autobiography, let me beg him to dismiss them with all haste from 
his mind ; that||My work records the inability of recalling the en- 
chanting days oi^fouth " with the dimmed powers of an aged mind ;" 

* Otto Jahn, in the Briefe cm Leipxiger Freunde, p. 9. 


and it is evident that the cabn narrative of his Excellency J. W. von 
Goethe very inaccurately represents the actaal condition of the raw, 
wild student, just escaped from the paternal roof, with money which 
seems unlimited in his purse, with the world before him which his 
genius is to open. His own letters, and the letters of his friends, 
enable us '* to read between the lines" of the Autobiography, and to 
read there a very diflferent account. 

He first presented himself to Ho&ath Bohme, a genuine German 
professor, shut within the narrow circle of his speciality. To him. 
Literature and the Fine Arts were trivialities ; and when the con- 
fiding youth confessed his secret ambition of studying belles lettres, 
in lieu of the jurisprudence commanded by his father, he met with 
every discouragement. Yet it was not difficult to persuade this 
impressible student that to rival Otto and Heineccius was the true 
ambition of a vigorous mind. He set to work in earnest, at first, as 
students usually do on arriving at seats of learning. His attendance 
at the lectures on philosophy, history of law, and jurisprudence, was 
assiduous enough to have pleased even his father. But this flush of 
eagerness quickly subsided. Logic was invincibly repugnant to him. 
He hungered for reahties, and could not be satisfied with definitions. 
To see operations of his mind which, from childhood upwards, had 
been conducted with perfect ease and unconsciousness*, suddenly 
pulled to pieces, in order that he might gain the superfluous know- 
ledge of what they were, and what they were called, was to him 
tiresome and frivolous. '^ I fancied I knew as much about God and 
the world as the professor himself, and logic seemed in many places 
to come to a dead standstill." We are here on the threshold of that 
experience which has been immortalised in the scene between Me- 
phistopheles and the Student. Jurisprudence soon became almost 
equally tiresome. He already knew as much law as the professor 
thought proper, to communicate; and what with the tedium of 
the lectures, and the counter-attraction of dehcious fritters, which 
used to come " hot from the pan precisely at the hour of lecture," 
no wonder that volatile Sixteen soon abated attendance. 

Volatile he was, wild, and somewhat rough, both in appearance 
and in speech. He had brought with him a wild, uneasy spirit 
struggling towards the Ught. He had also brought with him the 
rough manners of Frankfurt, the strong Frankfurt dialect and coUo- 
quialisms, rendered still more unfit for the Leipsic salon by a mixture 
of proverbs and biblical allusions. Nay, even his costume was in 
unpleasant contrast with that of the society in which he moved. He 
had an ample wardrobe, but unhappily it was doubly out of fashion : 


it had been manufactured at home by one of his father's servants^ 
and thus was not only in the Frankfurt style^ but grotesquely made 
in that style. To complete his discomfiture^ he saw a favourite low 
comedian throw an audience into fits of laughter by appearing on 
the stage dressed precisely in that costume^ which he had hitherto 
worn as the latest novelty ! All who can remember the early humi- 
liations of being far behind their companions in matters of costume, 
will sympathise with this youth. Prom one of his letters written 
shortly after his arrival, we may catch a glimpse of him. '' To-day 
I have heard two lectures : Bohme on law, and Emesti on Cicero's 
Orator, That '11 do, eh ? Next week we have collegium philoso- 
phicum et mathematicum. I haven't seen Oottsched yet. He is 
married again. She is nineteen and he sixty-five. She is four feet 
high, and he seven feet. She is as thin as a herring, and he as broad 
as a feathersack. I make a great figure here I But as yet I am no 
dandy. I never shall become one. . I need some skill to be indus- 
trious. In society, concerts, theatre, feastings, promenades, the time 
flies. Ha! it goes gloriously. But also expensively. The devil 
knows how my purse feels it. Hold I rescue I stop ! There go two 
louis d'or. Help ! there goes another. Heavens ! another couple 
are gone. Pence are here as farthings are with you. Nevertheless 
one can live cheaply here. So I hope to get oflF with two hundred 
thalers — ^what do I say ? with three hundred. N.B. Not including 
what has already gone to the devil." 

Dissatisfied with College, he sought instruction elsewhere. At 
the table where he dined daily, kept by Hofrath Ludwig the rector, 
he met several medical students. He heard little talked of but me- 
dicine and botany, and the names of Haller, LinnaBus, and Bufibn, 
were incessantly cited with respect. His ready quickness to interest 
himself in all that interested those around him, threw him at once 
into these studies, which hereafter he was to pursue with passionate 
ardour, but which at present he only lightly touched. Another 
source of instruction awaited him, one which through life he ever 
gratefully acknowledged, namely, the society of women. 

"WillBt du genaa erfahren was sioh^iemt. 
So frage nur bei edlen Frauen an !"* 

So he speaks in Tasso ; and here, in Leipsic, he was glad to learn 
from Fran Bofime not only some of the requisites for society, but 
also some principles of poetic criticism. This delicate, accomplished 
woman was able to draw him into society, to teach him I'ombre and 

• " Wonldst clearly leam what the Becoming is, inquire of noble-minded women !" 


picquet, to correct some of his awkwardnesses^ and lastly to make 
him own that the poets he admired were a deplorable set^ and that 
his own imitations of them deserved no better fate than the flames. 
He had got rid of his absurd wardrobe at one fell swoop, without a 
murmur at the expense. He now had also to cast away the poetic 
wardrobe brought from home with so much pride. He saw that it 
was poetic frippery — saw that his own poems were lifeless ; accord- 
ingly, a holocaust was made of all his writings, prose and verse, and 
the kitchen fire wafted them into space. 

But society became vapid to him at last. He was not at his ease. 
Cards never amused him, and poetical discussion became painful. 
" I have not written a long while,'' he writes to his fiiend Biese. 
'^ Forgive me. Ask not after the cause ! It was not occupation, at 
all events. You live contented in Marburg ; I live so here. Soli- 
tary, sohtary, quite solitary. Dear Biese, this sohtude has awakened 
a certaiu sadness in my soul : — 

It is my only pleaanre. 

Away from 2M the world. 

To lie beside the streamlet. 

And think of those I love. 

But contented as I am, I still feel the want of old companions. I 

sigh for my friends and my maiden, and when I feel that my sighs 

are vain, — 

Then fills my heart with sorrow,— 

My eye is dim ; 

The stream which softly passed me. 

Boars now in storm. 

No bird sings in the bushes. 

The zephyr which refreshed me 

Now storms from the north. 

And whirls off the blossoms. 

With tremor I fly from the spot, — 

I fly, and seek in deserted streets 

Bad solitude. 

Yet how happy I am, quite happy ! Horn has drawn me from low 
spirits by his arrival. He wonders why I am so changed. 

He seeks to find the explanation. 
Smiling thinks o'er it, looks me in the fBi/oe ; 
But how can he find out my cause of grief? 
I know it not myself. 

But I must tell you something of myself: 

Quite other wishes rise within me nOw, 
Dear friend, from those you have been wont to hear. 
You know how seriously I wooed the Muse ; 
With what a hate I scorned those whom the Law 

1765.] THE LElPtilC STUDENT, 41 

And not the Musee beckoned. And yon know 

How fondly I (alas ! most fEiJsely) ho{>ed 

The MuseB loved me, — gave me gift of song ! 

My Lyre soonded many a lofty song. 

But not the Muses, not Apollo sent them. 

True, it is my pride made me believe 

The Gods descended to me, and no Master 

Produced more perfect works than mine ! 

No sooner came I here, than from my eyes 

Fell off the scales, as I first learned to prize 

Fame, and the mighty efforts fame required. 

Then seemed to me my own ambitious flight 

But as the agitation of a worm. 

Who in the dust beholds the eagle soar. 

And strives to reach him ; strains eveiy nerve, 

Tet only agitates the dust he lies in. 

Sudden the wind doth rise, and whirls the dust 

In clouds, the worm is alBO raisM with it : 

Then the poor worm believes he has the wings 

Of eagles, raising him too in the air ! 

But in another moment lulls the wind. 

The doud of dust drops gently on the ground. 

And with the dust the worm, who crawls once more ! 

Don^t be angry with my galimathias. Good bye. Horn will finish 
this letter.'' 

Not only is this letter cnrious in its revelations of his state of 
mind, but the verses into which it spontaneously flows, and which I 
have translated with more jealous fideUty to the meaning than to 
poetical reproduction, show how among his friends he was even then 
regarded as a future poet. The confession uttered in the final verses, 
clearly owes its origin to Frau Bohme's criticisms; but it is not 
every young poet who can be so easily discouraged. Even his dis- 
couragement could not last long. Schlosser, afterwards his brother- 
in-law, came to Leipsic, and by his preaching and example once 
more roused the productive activity which showed itself in German, 
French, English, and Italian verses. 

Schlosser, who was ten years his senior, not only awakened emu- 
lation by his own superior knowledge and facility, but further aided 
him by introducing him to a set of literary friends, with whom poetic 
discussions formed the staple of conversation. This circle met at the 
house of one Schonkopf, a Weinhdndler and Hausmirth, Uving in the 
Briihl, No. 79.* To translate these words into English equivalents 
would only mislead the reader. Schonkopf kept neither an hotel, 
nor a public house, but what in Germany is a substitute for both. 
He sold wine, and kept a table d'hdte; occasionally also let bed- 

* The ho\ise still stands there, but has been almost entirely remodelled. 


rooms to travellers. His wife, a lively, cultivated woman, belonging 
to a good family in Frankfurt, drew Frankfurt visitors to the house ; 
and with her Goethe soon became on terms of intimacy, which would 
seem surprising to the English reader who only heard of her as an 
innkeeper's wife. He became one of the family, and fell in love 
with the daughter. I must further beg the reader to understand 
that in Germany, to this day, there is a wide difference between the 
dining customs and our own. The English student, clerk, or ba- 
chelor, who dines at an eating-house, chop-house, or hotel, goes 
there simply to get his dinner, and perhaps look at the Times, Of 
the other diners he knows nothing, cares little. It is rare that a 
word is interchanged between him and his neighbour. Quite other- 
wise in Germany. There the same society is generally to be found 
at the same table. The tahle d/hdte is composed of a circle of hahi- 
tv48, varied by occasional visitors, who in time become, perhaps, 
members of the circle. Even with strangers conversation is freely 
interchanged ; and in a little while friendships are formed over these 
dinner tables, according as natural tastes and likings assimilate, 
which, extending beyond the mere hour of dinner, are carried into 
the current of life. Germans do not rise so hastily from the table as 
we ; for time with them is not so precious j life is not so crowded ; 
time can be found for quiet after-dinner talk. The cigars and coffee, 
which appear before the cloth is removed, keep the company toge- 
ther; and in that state of suffused comfort which quiet digestion 
creates, they hear without anger the opinions of antagonists. In 
such a society must we imagine Goethe in the Schonkopf establish- 
ment, among students and men of letters, all eager in advancing 
their own opinions, and combating the false taste which was not 
their own. 

y To complete this picture, and to separate it still more from our 
English customs, you must imagine host and hostess dining at the 
table, while their charming daughter, who had cooked or helped to 
cook the dinner, brought them the wine. This daughter was the 
Anna Katharina, by intimates called Kathchen, and by Goethe, in 
the Autobiography y designated as Annchen and Annette. Her por- 
trait, still extant, is very pleasing. She was then nineteen, lively, 
and loving ; how could she be insensible to the love of this glorious 
youth, in all the fervour of genius, and with all the attractions of 
beauty ? They saw each other daily, not only at dinner but in the 
evenings, when he accompanied the piano of her brother by a feeble 
performance on the flute. They also got up private theatricals, in 
which Goethe and Kathchen played the lovers. Minna von Barnhelm, 


then a novelty, was among the pieces performed. That these per- 
formances were of a strictly amateur order may be gathered from 
the fact that in one of them the part of a nightingale, which is im- 
portant, was represented by a handkerchief, rolled up into such 
ornithological resemblance as art could reach. 

Two letters, quite recently discovered, have fallen into my hands ; 
they give us a curious glimpse of him at this time, such as one may 
look for in vain in* his own account of himself, or in the accounts of 
any other writer. They are from his friend Horn, whose arrival he 
mentioned in the letter previously quoted, and who was one of his 
daily companions in Frankfort. The first is dated 12th of August, 
1766, and is addressed to one Moors, a Frankfurt companion. 

" To speak of our Goethe ! He is still the same proud, fantastic 
personage as when I came hither. If you only saw him, you would 
either be mad with anger or you would burst with laughter. I can- 
not at all understand, how a man can so quickly transform himself. 
His manners and his whole bearing, at present, are as different as 
possible from his former behaviour. Over and above his pride, he is 
a dandy ; and all his clothes, handsome as they are, are in so odd a 
taste that they make him conspicuous among all the students. 
But this is indifferent to him ; one may remonstrate with him for 
his folly as much as one likes — 

Man mag Amphion seyn und Feld and Wald bezwingen, 
Nnr keinen 6K>ethe nicht kann man zur Klugheit bringen.* 

All his thought and effort is only to please himself and his lady-love. 
In every circle he makes himself more ridiculous than agreeable. 
Merely because the lady admires it, he has put on tricks and ges- 
tures that one cannot possibly refrain from laughing at. He has 
adopted a walk which is quite insufferable. K you only saw it 1 

' n marche ^ pas compt^s, 
Ck>mme xm Becteur soivi dee qoatie Faculty.' 

His society is every day more intolerable to me, and he, too, trios 
to avoid me whenever he can. I am too plain a man for him to 
walk across the street with me. What would the ' king of Holland' 
say if he saw him in this guise ? Do write again to him soon and 
tell him your opinion ; else he and his lady-love will remain as silly 
as ever. Heaven only preserve me, as long as I am here, from any 
sweetheart, for the women here are the very devil. Goethe is not 
the first who has made a fool of himself to please his Dulcinea. I 

• " One may be Amphion and coerce the trees and rocks, but not bring Qoethe to 
bis senses." 


only wish you could see her just for once : she is the most absurd 
creature in the world. Her mme coquette avec un air Kautain is all 
with which she has bewitched Goethe. Dear fiiend 1 how glad 
should I be if Goethe were still what he was in Frankfurt ! Good 
friends as we were formerly, we can now scarcely endure each other 
for a quarter of an hour. Yet with time I still hope to convert him, 
though it is a hard matter to make a coxcomb wise. But I will 
venture everything for the sake of it. 

Ach ! firttchtete dies mem Bemtthn ! 
Ach ! kdxmt' ich meinen Zweck erreiohen ! 
loh woUt' nicht Luther, nicht Calvin, 
Nodi einem der Bekehrer weiohen.* 

I cannot write to him again what I have here told you. I shall be 
delighted if you will do so. I care neither for his anger nor for that 
of his lady-love. For, after all, he is not easily offended with me ; 
even when we have quarrelled he sends for me* next day. So much 
of him ; more another time. 

Live and forget not thy Hoen.'' 

r '' 

Moors followed Horn's advice, and expressed to Goethe, apparently 
in very plain terms, his astonishment and dissatisfaction at the dis* 
advantageous change. In October of the same year, he received 
from Horn the following explanation : 

" But, dear Moors I how glad you will be to learn that we have 
lost no friend in our Goethe, as we falsely supposed. He had so 
travestied himself as to deceive not only me but a great many others, 
and we should never have discovered the real* truth of the matter, if 
your letter had not threatened him with the loss of a friend. I must 
tell you the whole stoiy as he himself told it to me, for he has com- 
missioned me to do so in order to save him the trouble. He is in 
love, it is true — ^he has confessed it to me, and will confess it to 
you ; but his love, though its circumstances are sad, is not culpable, 
as I formerly supposed. He loves. But not that young lady whom 
I suspected him of loving. He loves a girl beneath him in rank, but 
a girl whom — I think I do not say too much — ^you would yourself 
love if you saw her. I am no lover, so I shall write entirely without 
passion. Imagine to yourself a woman, well grown, though not very 
tall ; a round, agreeable, though not extraordinarily beautiful face ; 
open, gentle, engaging manners ; a very pretty understanding, with- 
out having had any great education. He loves her very tenderly, 

• "Ah, if my attempt sacceed, I should not envy Lather, Calvin, nor any other 


with the perfect, honest intentions of a virtuous man, though he 
knows that she can never be his. Whether she loves hirn in return 
I know not. You know, dear Moors, that is a point about wtieh 
one cannot well ask ; but this much I can say to you, that they seem 
to be bom for each other. Now observe his cunning ! That no 
one may suspect him of such an attachment, he undertakes to per- 
suade the world of precisely the opposite, and hitherto he has been 
extraordinarily successful. He makes a great parade, and seems to 
be paying court to a certain young lady of whom I have told you 
before. He can see his beloved and converse with her at certain 
times without giving occasion for the slightest suspicion, and I often 
accompany him to her. If Goethe were not my friend I should fall 
in love with her myself. Meanwhile he is supposed to be in love 

with the Fraulein (but what do you care about her name ?) 

and people are fond of teasing him about her. Perhaps she herself 
beUeves that he loves her, but the good lady deceives herself. Since 
that time he has admitted me to closer confidence, has made me 
acquainted with his affairs, and shewn me that his expenditure is not 
BO great as might be supposed. He is more of a philosopher and 
moralist than ever ; and innocent as his love is, he nevertheless dis- 
approves it. We often dispute about this, but let him take what 
side he will, he is sure to win ; for you know what weight he can 
give to only apparent reasons. I pity him and his good heart, which 
really must be in a very melancholy condition, since he loves the 
most virtuous and perfect of girls without hope. But if we suppose 
that she loves him in return, how miserable must he be on that very 
account ! I need not explain that to you, who so well know the 
human heart. He has told me that he will write you one or two 
things about it himself. There is no necessity for me to recommend 
silence to you on this subject ; for you yourself see how necessary 

it is " 

Imagine this somewhat fantastic youth assured that his passion is 
returned, and then imagine him indulging in the boyish caprice of 
tormenting his beloved. There is nothing more cruel than youth ; 
and youthful lovers, once assured of victory, are singularly prone to 
indulge in the most frivolous pretexts for ingeniously tormenting. 
'^ Man loves to conquer, likes not to feel secure,'^ Goethe says, in 
the piece wherein he dramatized this early experience : 

" Erringen will der Mensch ; er will nicht sicher sejzi." 

Had Kathchen coquetted with him, keeping him in the exquisite 
pain of suspense, she would have been happier : but as he said in his 


little poem, Bet Wahre Oenuas, " she is perfect, and her only fault is 
— ^that she loves me'' : 

8ie ist Tolkommen, nnd sie fehlet 
Darin allein dass de mich liebt. 

He teased her with trifles and idle suspicions ; was jealous without 
cause, convinced without reason ; plagued her with fantastic quar- 
rels, till at last her endurance was exhausted, and her love was 
washed away in tears. No sooner was he aware of this, than he 
repented, and tried to recover the jewel which like a prodigal he 
had cast away. In vain. He was in despair, and tried in dissipa- 
tion to forget his grief. A better issue was poetry. Several of his 
lyrics bore the burden of this experience ; and one entire play, or 
pastoral, is devoted to a poetical representation of these lovers' 
quarrels : this is Die Laune des Verliebten, which is very curious as 
the earliest extant work of the great poet, and as the earliest spe- 
cimen of his tendency to turn experience into song. In the opera 
of Erwin und Elmire he subsequently treated a similar subject, in a 
very different manner. The first effort is the more curious of the 
two. The style of composition is an imitation of those pastoral 
dramas, which, originated by Tasso and Guarini in the soft and 
almost luscious Aminta and Pastor Fido, had by the French been 
made popular all over Europe. 

Two happy and two unhappy lovers are somewhat artificially con- 
trasted ; the two latter representing Kathchen and the poet. Action 
. there is none ; the piece is made up of talk about love, some felicitous 
verses of the true stamp and ring, and an occasional glimpse of in- 
sight into the complexities of passion. Eridon, the jealous lover, 
torments his mistress in a style at once capricious and natural ; with 
admirable truth she deplores his jealousy and excuses it : 

Zwar oft betrdbt er mich, doch rOhrt ihn aach mein Schmerz. 
Wirft er mir etwas vor, fiUigt er xnidi an zu plagen. 
So darf ich nnr ein Wort, ein gates Wort nur sagen, 
Gleich ist er amgekehrt, die wilde Zanksucht flieht, 
Er weint sogar mit mir, wenn er mich weinen sieht.* 

It is admirably said that the very absence of any cause for grief 
prompts him to create a grief: 

Da er kein Blend hat, vsiU er aich Elend machen. 

* 'Tis true he rexes me, and yet my sorrow pains him. 
Tet let him but reproach — ^begin to teaze me. 
Then need I but a word, a single Idnd word utter. 
Away flies aJl his anger in a moment. 
And he wiU weep with me, because he sees me weep. 


Amme is also toached with a delicate pencil. Her loyingness^ for- 
givingness^ and endurance are from the life. Here is a couplet 
breathing the very tenderness of love : . 

Der liebe leichtes Band machfiit da zum schweren Joch. 
Da qoalst mich aJa T^^mmi and ichP ich luib dAch nochi* 

One more line and I have done : Egl6 is persuading Eridon that 
A miners love of dancing is no trespass on her love for h\m ; since, 
after having enjoyed her dance, her first thought is to seek him : 

Und dutch das Buehen selbti wirsi du ihr immer lieber.f 

In such touches as these lurks the future poet ; still more so in 
the very choice of the subject. Here, as ever, he does not cheat 
himself with pouring feigned sorrows into feigning verse : he em- 
balms his own experience. He does not trouble himself with draw- 
ing characters and events from the shelves of the library : his soul 
is the fountain of his inspiration. His own life was uniformly the 
text from which he preached. He sang what he had felt, and be- 
cause he had felt it ; not because others had sung before him. He 
was the echo of no man's joys and sorrows, he was the lyrist of his 
own. This is the reason why his poems have an endless charm : 
they are as indestructible as passion itself. They reach our hearts 
because they issue from his. Every bullet hits the mark, according 
to the huntsman's superstition, if it have first be^n dipped in the 
marksman's blood. 

He has told us, emphatically, that all his works are but fragments 
of the grand confession of his life. Of him we may say what Horace 
so well says of Lucilius, that he trusted his secrets to books as to 
faithful friends : 

"Hie velat fidis arcana sodalibas olim 
Credebat libriB ; neqae, si male cesserat, onqaam 
Decurrens alio, neqae si bene : quo fit, ut omnia 
Votiva patecU veluii descrijpta iaheUa 
Vita 8enx8."X 

How clearly he saw the nullity of every other procedure is shown 
in various passages of his letters and conversations. Biemer has 
preserved one worth selecting : " There will soon be a poetry with- 
out poetry, a real woAycrt?, where the subject matter is iv woii]cr€i, in 

* " The fiairy link of Love thon mak'st a galling yoke. 
Thoa treat'st me as a slaye ; and I ? I love thee still !" 

t " And in the reiy search her heart grows fonder of thee." 

X Sermon., lib. n, 1. 


the making : a manufactured poetry.^f He dates from Leipsic the 
origin of his own practice, which he says was a tendency he never 
could deviate from all his life : '* namely, the tendency to transform 
into an image, a poem, everything which delighted or troubled me, 
or otherwise occupied me, and to come to some distinct understand- 
ing with myself upon it, to set my inward being at rest/' The 
reason ha gives for this tendency is very questionable. He attributes 
it to the isolation in which he lived with respect to matters of taste 
forcing him to look within for poetical subjects. But had not the 
tendency of his genius lain in that direction, no such circumstances 
could have directed it. 

Young, curious, and excitable as he was, nothing is more na- 
tural than that he should somewhat shock the respectabilities by 
his pranks and extravagancies. His constant companion was Beh- 
risch, one of the most interesting figu^s among these Leipsic 
friends. With strongly-marked features and a certain dry causticity 
of manner, always well dressed, and always preserving a most 
staid demeanour, Behrisch was about thirty years of age, and 
had an ineradicable love of inn and mystification. He could treat 
trifles with an air of immense importance. He would invent narra- 
tives about the perversity and absurdity of others, in order to con- 
vulse his hearers with the unction of his philippics against such 
absurdity. He was fond of dissipation, into which he carried an air 
of supreme gravity. He rather affected the French style of politesse, 
and spoke the language well ; and, above all, he had some shrewd 
good sense, as a buttress for all his follies. Behrisch introduced him 
to some damsels who " were better than their reputation,*' and took 
him into scenes more useful to the future poet than advantageous to 
the repute of the young student. He also laughed him out of all 
respect for gods, goddesses, and other mythological inanities which 
still pressed their heavy dullness on his verse ; would not let him 
commit the imprudence of rushing into print, but calmed the author's 
longing, by beautifiilly copying his verses into a volume, adorning 
them with vignettes. Behrisch was, so to speak, the precursor of 
Merck ; his influence not so great, but somewhat of the same kind. 
The friends were displeased to see young Goethe falling thus away 
from good society into such a disreputable course ; but just as 
Lessing before him had neglected the elegant Leipsic world for 

* Briefe von und an Ooethe. Heransgeg. yon Bismer. 1846. What foUowB is 
untranidateable, from the play on words : " Die Dichter heissen dann so, nvie schon 
Moritz spasste, a spisaando, densando, vom Dichtmachen, weil sio Alles zuBaxuinen- 
driingen, und kommen mir vor wie eine Art Wurstmacher, die in den Darm des 
Hexameters oder Trimeters ihre Wort- und Sylbenfiille stopfen." 


actors and authors of more wit than money, and preferred Mylius, 
with his shoes down at heel, to all that the best drest society could 
oflTer; so did young Goethe neglect salon and lecture-hall for the 
many-coloured scene of life in less elegant circles. Enlightened by 
the result, we foresee that the poet will receive little injury from 
these sources ; he is gaining experience, and experience even of the 
worst sides of human nature will be sublimated into noble uses, as 
carrion by the wise farmer is turned into excellent manure. In this 
great drama of life every Theatre has its Green-room ; and unless 
the poet know how it is behind the scenes he will never under- 
stand how actors speak and move. 

Goethe had often been "behind the scenes," looking at the 
skeleton which stands in almost every house. His adventure with 
Gretchen, and its consequences, early opened his eyes to the strduge 
gulfs which lie under the crust of society. " Religion, morals, law, 
rank, habits," he says, '' rule over the surface of social life. Streets 
of magnificent houses are kept clean; every one outwardly con- 
ducts himself with propriety ; but the disorder within is often only 
the more desolate; and a polished exterior covers many a wall 
which totters, and falls with a crash during the night, all the more 
terrible because it falls during a calm. How many families had I 
not more or less distinctly known in which bankruptcy, divorce, 
seduction, murder, and robbery had wrought destruction ! Young 
as I was, I had often, in such cases, lent my succour ; for as my 
frankness awakened confidence, and my discretion was known, and 
as my activity did not shun any sacrifice — indeed, rather preferred 
the most perilous occasions — I had frequently to mediate, console, 
and try to avert the storm ; in the course of which I could not help 
learning many sad and humiliating facts." 

It was natural that such sad experienx^e should at first lead him 
to view the whole social fabric with contempt. To relieve him- 
self he — being then greatly captivated with Moliere's works, — 
sketched the plans of several dramas, but their plots were so 
uniformly unpleasant, and the catastrophes so tragic, that ho did 
not work out these plans. " The Fellow Sinners" fDle MitschulcU 
igenj, is the sole piece which was completed, and it now occupies 
a place among his writings. Few, in England at least, ever read it; 
yet it is worth a rapid glance, and is especially remarkable as the 
work of a youth not yet eighteen. It is lively, and strong with efiective 
situations and two happily sketched characters, — Soller, the scampish 
husband, and his father-in-law, the inquisitive landlord. The plot is 
briefly this: Seller's wife — before she became his wife — loved a certain 


Alc5est; and her husband's conduct is not such as to make her forget 
her former lover, who, at the opening of the play, is residing in 
her father's hotel. Alcest prevails upon her to grant him an inter- 
view in his own room, while her husband, Soller, is at the mas- 
querade. Unluckily, Soller has determined to rob Alcest that very 
night. He enters the room by stealth — opens the escritoire — ^takes the 
money — is alarmed by a noise — ^hides himself in an alcove, and then 
sees his father-in-law, the landlord, enter the room I The old man, 
unable to resist a burning curiosity to know the contents of a letter 
which Alcest has received that day, has come to read it in secret. 
But he in turn is alarmed by the appearance of his daughter, and, 
letting the candle fall, he escapes. Soller is now the exasperated 
witness of an interview between Alcest and his wife: a situation 
which, like the whole of the play, is a mixture of the ludicrous and 
the painful — ^very dramatic and very unpleasant. 

On the following day, the robbery is discovered, Sophie thinks 
the robber is her father ; he returns her the compliment — nay, more, 
stimulated by his eager curiosity, he consents to inform Alcest of his 
suspicion in return for the permission to read the contents of the 
mysterious letter. A father sacrificing his daughter to gratify a 
paltry curiosity is too gross ; it is the only trait of juvenility in the 
piece — ^a piece otherwise prematurely old. Enraged at such an ac- 
cusation, Sophie retorts the charge upon her father, and some un- 
amiable altercations result. The piece winds up by the self-betrayal 
of Soller, who, intimating to Alcest that ho was present during a 
certain nocturnal interview, shields himself from punishment. The 
moral is — ^' Forget and forgive among fellow sinners." 




The two dramatic works noticed towards the closd of the last chap- 
ter, may be said to begin the real poetic career of their author, be- 
cause in them he drew from his actual experience. They will furnish 
us with a text for some remarks on his peculiar characteristics, the 
distinct recognition of which will facilitate the comprehension of his 
life and writings. We make a digression, but the reader will find 
that in thus swerving from the direct path of narrative, we are only 
tacking to fill our sails with wind. 

Frederick Schlegel (and after him Coleridge) aptly indicated a dis- 
tinction, when he said that every man was bom either a Platonist or 
an Aristotelian. This distinction is often expressed in the terms 
mibjective and objective intellects. Perhaps we shall best define these 
by calling the objective intellect one which is eminently impersonaly 
and the subjective intellect one which is eminently personal ; the 
former disengaging itself as much as possible from its own prepos- 
sessions, striving to see and represent objects as they exist ; the other 
viewing all objects in the light of its own feelings and preconceptions. 
It is needless to add that no mind can be exclusively objective, nor ex- 
clusively subjective ; but every mind has a more or less dominant ten- 
dency in one of these directions. We see the contrast in Philosophy, 
as in Art. The realist argues from Nature upwards, argues induc- 
tively, starting from reality, and never long losing sight of it ; even 
in the adventurous flights of hypothesis and speculation, being de- 
sirous that his hypothesis shall correspond with realities. The 
idealist argues from an Idea downwards, argues deductively, start- 
ing from some conception, and seeking in realities only visible illus- 
trations of a deeper existence. The achievements of modem Science, 
and the masterpieces of Art, prove that the grandest generalizations 
and the most elevated types can only be reached by the former 
method; and that what is called the ^' ideal school,*^ so far from 
having the superiority which it claims, is only more lofty in its pre- 
tensi^ms ; the realist, with more modest pretensions, achieves loftier 



results. The Objective and Subjective, or, as tbey are also called, 
the Real and Ideal, are thus contrasted as the termini of two oppo- 
site lines of thought. In Philosophy, in Morals, and in Art, we see 
a constant antagonism between these two principles. Thus in Morals 
the Platonists are those who seek the highest morality out of human 
nature, instead of in the healthy development of all human tenden- 
cies, and their due co-ordination ; they hope, in the suppression of 
integral faculties, to attain some superhuman standard. They call 
that Ideal which no Reality can reach, but for which we should strive. 
They superpose ah extra, instead of trying to develope ah intra. They 
draw from their own minds, or from the dogmas handed to them by 
tradition, an arbitrary mould, into which they attempt to fuse the 
organic activity of Nature. 

K this school had not in its favour the imperious instinct of pro- 
gress, and aspirations after a better, it would not hold its ground. 
But it satisfies that craving, and thus deludes many minds into ac- 
quiescence. The poetical and enthusiastic disposition most readily 
acquiesces : preferring to overlook what man is, in its delight of con- 
templating what the poet makes him. To such a mind all concep- 
tions of man must have a halo round them, — ^half mist, half sunshine ; 
the hero must be a Demigod, in whom no valet de charnhre can find 
a failing : the villain must be a Demon, for whom no charity can find 
an excuse. 

Not to extend this to a dissertation, let me at once say that Goethe 
belonged to the ohjcA^tivejd&as, '^ Everywhere in Goethe,^' said Franz 
Horn, '' you are on firm land or island ; nowhere the infinite sea.'^ 
A better characterization was never written in one sentence. In 
every page of his works may be read a strong feeling for the real, the 
concrete, the living ; and a repugnance as strong for the vague, the 
abstract, or the supersensuous. ^ His constant striving was to study 
Nature, so as to see her directly, and not through the mists of fancy, 
or through the distortions of prejudice, — ^to look at men, and into 
them, — to apprehend things as they were. In his conception of the 
universe he could not separate God from it, placing Him above it, 
beyond it, as the philosophers did who represented God whirling the 
universe round His finger, ^' seeing it go.'' Such a conception re- 
volted him. He animated the universe with God ; ho animated fact 
with divine life ; he saw in Reality the incarnation of the Ideal ; he 
saw in MoraUty the high and harmonious action of all human ten- 
dencies; he saw in Art the highest representation of Life. If we 
look through his works with critical attention, we shall observe the 
concrete tendency determining — first, his choice of subjects; secondly. 


his liandling of character ; and, thirdly, his style. Intimately con- 

/^nected with this concreteness is that other characteristic of his genius, 

• which determined his creative impulses only in alliance tvith emotunis \ 

I he himself had exjyerienced. His imagination was not, like that of . 

many others, incessantly at work in the combination and recombina- 
\ tion of images, which could be accepted for their own sake, apart 
/ from the warrant of preUminary confrontation with fact. It de- \ 
/ manded the confrontation ; it moved with ease only on the secure / 
\ ground of Reality. In like manner we see that in science there are 
men whose active imaginations carry them into hypothesis and specu- 
lation, all the more easily because they do not bring hypothesis to the 
stem test of fact. The mere delight in combining ideas suffices 
them ; provided the deductions are logical, they seem almost indiffer- 
ent to their tmth. There are poets of this order ; indeed most poets 
are of this order. Goethe was of a quite opposite tendency. In 
him, as in the man of science, an imperious desire for reality con- 
trolled the errant facility of imagination. " llie first and last 
thing demanded of Genius,*' he says, " is love of truth.*' 

Hence we see why he was led to pourtray men and women instead 
of demigods and angels : no Posas and Theklas, but Egmonts and 
Clarchens. Hence also his portraitures carry their moral ivith them, 
in them, but have no moral superposed — no accompanying ver- 
dict as from some outstanding judge. Further, — and this is a point 
\ to be insisted on, — ^his style, both in poetry and prose, is subject to 
the same law. It is vivid with pictures, but it has scarcely any 
imagery. Most poets describe objects by metaphors or compari^ 
sons ; Goethe seldom tells you what an object is Wee, he tells you 
what it is, Shakspeare is very unlike Goethe in this respect. Tho 
prodigal luxuriance of his imagery often entangles, in its overgrowth, 
the movement of his verse. It is true, he also is eminently concrete: 
he sees the real object vividly, and he makes us see it vividly ; but 
he scarcely ever paints it save in the colours of metaphor and simile. 
Shakspeare's imagery bubbles up like a perpetual spring : to say 
that it repeatedly overflmvs, is only to say that his mind was lured by 
its own sirens away from the direct path. He did not master his 
Pegasus at all times, but let the wild careering creature take its 
winged way. Goethe, on the contrary, always masters his : perhaps 
because his steed had less of restive life in its veins. Not only does 
he mastor it, and ride with calm assured grace : he seems so bent on 
reaching the goal, that he scarcely thinks of anything else. To quit 
metaphor, he may be said to use with the utmost sparingness all the 
aids of imagery, and to create images of the objects, rather than 
images of what the objects' are like. 


Shakspeare^ like Goeiihe^ was a decided realist. He^ too^ was con- 
tent to let his pictures of life carry their own moral with them. He 
uttered no moral verdict; he was no Chorus preaching on the 
text of what he pictured. Hence we cannot gather from his works 
what were his opinions. But there is this diflference between him 
and Goethe, that his intense sympathy with the energetic passions 
and fierce volitions of our race made him delight in heroic cha- 
racters,, in men of robust frames and impassioned lives. Goethe, 
with an infusion of the best blood of Schiller, would have been a 
Shakspeare; but, such as Nature made him he was — ^not Shak- 

Turning from these abstract considerations to the two earliest 
works which form our text, we observe how the youth is determined 
in the choice of his subject by the realistic tendency. Instead of 
ranging through the enchanted gardens of Armida — instead of 
throwing himself back into the distant Past, thus escaping from the 
trammels of a modem subject, which the confrontation of reality 
always makes more difficult, this boy fashions into verse his own ex- 
perience, his own observation. He looks into his own heart, — ^he 
peers into the byways of civilization, walking with curious observa- 
tion through squalid streets and dark fearful alleys. Singular, more- 
over, is the absence of any fierce indignation, any cry of pain at the 
sight of so much corruption underlying the surface of society. In 
youth the loss of illusions is generally followed by a cynical misan- 
thropy, or a vehement protest. But Goethe is neither cynical nor 
indignant. He seems to accept the fa<^t as a thing to be admitted, 
and quietly striven against, with a view to its amelioration. He 
seems to think with the younger Pliny, that indulgence is a part of 
justice, and would cite with approval the favourite maxim of the 
austere yet humane Thraseas, ^wi viiia odit Iiamines odit, — ^he who 
hates vices hates mankind.* For in the Mitschtddigen he presents 
us with a set of people whose consolation is to exclaim " Rogues 
all \" — and in after years he wrote of this piece, that it was dictated, 
though unconsciously, by " far-sighted tolerance in the appreciation 
of moral actions, as expressed in the eminently Christian sentence, 
' Let him xvlw is unthout sin ammig you cast tlie first stone,' " 

• Pliny, Epist., lib. viii, 22. After the text was written, Scuoll published 
Goethe's note-book kept at Strasburg, wherein may be read this very aphorism 
transcribed. It was just the sort of passage to captivate him. 

1766.] ART STUDIES, 66 



Frau Bohme died. In her he lost a monitress and friend, who had 
kept some check on his waywardness, and drawn hiTn into society. 
The Professor had long since cooled towards him, after giving up all 
hopes of making him another Heineccius. It was pitiful. A youth 
with such remarkable dispositions, who would not be assiduous in 
attendance at lecture, and whose amusement during lecture was to 
sketch caricatures of various law dignitaries in his note book : another 
ornament to jurisprudence irrecoverably lost ! Indeed, the colle- 
giate aspect of this Leipsic residence is not one promising to pro- 
fessors ; but we — ^instructed by the result — know how much better 
he was employed, than if he had fiUed a hundred volumes of note 
books by diligent attendance at lecture. He studied much, in a de- 
sultory manner; he studied Molidre and Comeille; he began to 
translate Le Menteur, The theatre was a perpetual attraction ; and 
even the uneasy, unsatisfied condition of his affections, was instruct- 
ing him in directions whither no professor could lead him. But 
greater than all was the influence of Shakspeare, whom he first 
learned a little of through Dodd's Beauties of SJiakspeare^ a work 
not much prized in England, where the plays form part of our tradi- 
tional education, but which must have been a revelation to the 
Germans, something analogous to what Charles Lamb^s Specimens 
of ths Old English Drama was to us. The marvellous strength and 
beauty of language, the bold and natural imagery of these Beauties, 
startled the young poets of that day, like the discovery of huge fossil 
remains of some antediluvian fauna; and to gratify the curiosity 
thus awakened, he says there came Wieland's prose translation of 
several plays, which he studied with enthusiasm.* 

There are no materials to fill up the gaps of his narrative here, so 
that I am forced to leave much indistinct. For instance, he has told 
us that Kathchen and he were no longer lovers ; but we find him 

* It is possible that Wieland's translation only then fell into Goethe's hands, 
bat the pnblioition was commenced before his arrival in Leipzig, namely, in 1761. 


writing to her in a friendly and even lover-like tone from Frankfurt, 
and we know that friendly intercourse still subsisted between them. 
Of this, however, not a word occurs in the Autobiography, Nor are 
we accurately informed how he made the acquaintance of the Breit- 
kopf family. Breitkopf was a bookseller in Leipsic, in whose house 
Literature and Music were highly prized. Bemhard, the eldest son, 
was an excellent performer, and composed music to Goethe's songs, 
which were published in 1769, under this title : Neve Liederin Me^ 
hdieen yesetzt von Bemhard Theodor Breitlcopf. The poet is not 
named. This Liederbuch contains twenty songs, the majority of 
which were subsequently reprinted in the poet's works. ^They are 
love songs, and contain a love-philosophy more like what is to be 
found in Catullus, Horace, and Wieland, than what one would expect 
from a boy, did we not remember how the braggadocio of youth de- 
lights in expressing rou^ sentiments, as if to give itself airs of pro- 
found experience. This youth sings with gusto of inconstancy : 

Da ftthl ich die Freuden der wechselden Lust. 

He gaily declares that if one mistress leaves you another will love 
you, and the second is sweeter to kiss than the first : 

Ea kiisst sich so siisse der Busen der Zweiten, 
Als kaum sich der Busen der Ersten gekiisst. 

Another acquaintance, and one more directly influential, was that 
of Oescr, the director of the Drawing Academy. He had been the 
friend and teacher of Winckelmann, and his name stood high among 
connoisseurs. Goethe, who at home had learned a little drawing, 
joined Oeser's class, where, among other fellow students, was the 
Hardenberg who afterwards made such a noise in the Prussian po- 
litical world. He joined the class, and did his best to acquire by 
labour the skill which only a talent can acquire. That he made Uttle 
progress in drawing, we learn from his subsequent confession, no 
less than from his failure; but tuition had this effect at least — it 
taught him to use his eyes. In a future chapter* I shall have occa- 
sion to enter more fully on tliis subject. Enough if for the present 
a sentence or two from his letters tell us the enthusiasm Oeser in- 
spired. '^ \VTiat do I not owe to you," he writes to him, " for having 
pointed out to me the way of the Tme and the Beautiful I" and con- 
cludes by saying, " the undersigned is your work V Writing to a 
friend of Oesei-^s, he says that Oeser stands beside Shakspeare and 
Wieland in the influence exercised over him. " His instruction will 
influence my whole hfe. He it was who taught me that the Ideal of 

• Sue Book V, ch. V. 

1767.] ART STUDIES, 67 

Beauty is Simplicity and Bepose^ and thence it follows that no youth 
can be a master/' 

Instruction in the theory of Art he gained from Oeser, from 
Winckelmann, and from Laokoon, the incomparable little book which 
Leasing at this period carelessly flung upon the world. Its effect 
upon Goethe can only be appreciated by those who early in life have 
met with this work, and risen from it with minds widened, strength- 
ened, and inspired.* It opened a pathway amid confusion, throwing 
light upon many of the obscurest problems which torment the artist. 
It awakened in Goethe an intense yearning to see the works of an- 
cient masters ; and these beckoned from Dresden. To Dresden he 
went. But here, in spite of Oeser, Winckelmann, and Lessing, in 
spite of grand phrases about Art, the invincible tendency of his na- 
ture asserted itself, and instead of falling into raptures with the 
great Italian pictures, he confesses that he took their merits upon 
trust, and was really charmed by none but the landscape and Dutch 
painters, whose subjects appealed directly to his experience. He 
did not feel the greatness of Italian Art ; and what he did not feel 
he would not feign. 

It is worth noticing that this trip to Dresden was taken in abso- 
lute secresy. As, many years later, he stole away to Italy without 
letting his friends even suspect his project, so now he left Leipsic 
for Dresden without a word of intimation. Probably the same mo- 
tive actuated him in both instances. He went to see, to enjoy, to 
learn, and did not want to be disturbed by personal influence — by 
other people's opinions. 

On his return he was active enough with drawing. He made the 
acquaintance of an engraver named Stock,* and with his usual pro- 
pensity to try his hand at whatever his friends were doing, he forth- 
with began to learn engraving. In the Morgenhlatt for 1828 there 
is a detailed account of two of his engravings, both representing 
landscapes with small cascades shut in by rocks and grottoes ; at the 
foot of each are these words : pelnt par A, TJieile, grav^ par Ooetk^. 
One plate is dedicated d Monsieur Goetlie, ConseilUer actuel de 8. M, 
Irap^riale, par son jih tris oMissant. In the room which they show 
to strangers in his house in Frankfurt, there is also a specimen of 
his engraving: — ^very amateurish ; but Madame von Goethe showed 
me one in her possession which really has merit. 

* Macaitlay told me that the reading of this little book formed an epoch in his 
mental history^ and that he learned more from it than ho hud ever learned else- 

t This Stock had two amiable daughters, one of whom married (1785) Komer, 
the correspondent of Schiller, and father of the poet. 


Melancholy, wayward, and capricious, he allowed Lessing to 
pass through Leipsic without making any attempt to see the man 
he so much admired: a caprice he afterwards repented, for the 
opportunity never recurred. Something of his hypochondria was 
due to mental, but more to physical causes. Dissipation, bad diet 
(especially the beer and coffee), and absurd endeavours to carry 
out Rousseau's preaching about returning to a state of nature, 
had seriously affected his health. The crisis came at last. One 
summer night (1768) he was seized with violent haemorrhage. 
He had only strength enough to caU to his aid the fellow-student 
who slept in the next room. Medical assistance promptly came. 
He was saved ; but his convalescence was embittered by the dis- 
covery of a tumour oh his neck, which lasted some time. His reco- 
very was slow, but it seemed as if it relieved him from all the peccant 
humours which had made him hypochondriacal, leaving behind an 
inward lightness and joyousness to which he had long been a stranger. 
One thing greatly touched him — the sympathy expressed for him by 
several eminent men ; a sympathy he felt to be quite undeserved, 
for there was not one among them whom he had not vexed or 
affronted by his caprices, extravagances, morbid opposition, and 
stubborn persistence. 

One of these friends, Langer, not only made an exchange of books 
with him, giving a set of Classic authors for a set of German, but 
also, in devout yet not dogmatic conversation, led his young friend 
to regard the Bible in another light than that of a merely human 
composition. " I loved the Bible and valued it, for it was almost 
the only book to which I owed my moral culture. Its events, 
dogmas, and symbols were deeply impressed on my mind." He 
therefore felt little sympathy with the Deists who were at this time 
agitating Europe ; and although his tendency was strongly against 
the Mystics, he was afraid lest the poetical spirit should be swept 
away along with the prophetical. In one word, he was in a state of 
religious doubt — '^ destitute of faith, yet terrified at scepticism.^' 

This unrest and this bodily weakness he carried with him, Sep- 
tember 1768, from Leipsic to Frankfurt, whither we will follow 

1768.] RETURN HOME. 69 



He returned home a boy in years, in experience a man. Broken in 
health, unhappy in mind, with no strong impulses in any one direc- 
tion, uncertain of himself and of his aims, he felt, as he approached 
his native city, much like a repentant prodigal, who has no vision 
of the fatted calf awaiting him. His father, unable to perceive the 
real progress he had made, was very much alive to the slender pro- 
spect of his becoming a distinguished jurist. The fathers of poets 
are seldom gratified with the progress in education visible to them ; 
and the reason is that they do not know their sons to be poets, nor 
understand that the poet's orbit is not the same as their own. They 
tread the common highway on which the milestones accurately mark 
distances ; and seeing that their sons have trudged but little way 
according to this measurement, their minds are filled with mis- 
givings. Of that silent progress, which consists less in travelling 
on the broad highway, than in development of the limbs which will 
make a sturdy traveller, parents cannot judge. 

Mother and sister, however, touched by the worn face, and, 
woman-like, more interested in the man than what he had achieved, 
received him with an affection which compensated for his father's 
coldness. There is quite a pathetic glimpse given of this domestic 
interior in the Autobiography y where he alludes to his father's impa- 
tience at his illness, and anxiety for his speedy recovery. And we 
gladly escape from this picture to the Letters written from Frank- 
furt to his old love, Kathchen Schonkopf.* It appears that he left 
Leipsic without saying adieu. * He thus refers to it : 

^' Apropos, you will forgive me that I did not take leave of you. 
I was in the neighbourhood, I was even below at the door j I saw 
the lamp burrving and went to the steps, but I had not the courage to 
mount. For the last time — ^how should I have come down again ? 

'^ Thus I now do what I ought to have done then : I thank you 
for all the love and friendship which you have constantly shown me, 

* Printed in Ooeth^s Brief e an seine Leipwiger Freunde. Herausgegeben von Otto 


and which I shall never forget. I need not beg you to remember 
me^ — a thousand occasions will arise which must remind you of a 
man who for two years and a half was part of your family, who 
indeed often gave you cause for displeasure, but still was always a 
good lad, and whom it is to be hoped you will often miss ; at least, 
I often miss you/' 

The tumour on his neck became alarming: the more so as the 
surgeons, uncertain about its nature, were wavering in their treat- 
ment. Frequent cauterization, and constant confinement to his 
room, were the worst parts of the cure. He read, drew, and etched 
to wile away the time ; and by the end of the year was pronounced 
recovered. This letter to Kathchen announces the recovery. 
" My best, anxious friend, — 

'^ You will doubtless have heard from Horn, on the new year, the 
news of my recovery ; and I hasten to confirm it. Yes, dear friend, 
it is over, and in future you must take it quietly, even if you hear — 
he is laid up again ! You know that my constitution often makes a 
slip, and in a week gets on its legs again ; this time it was bad, 
and seemed yet worse than it was, and was attended with terrible 
pains. Misfortune is also a good. I have learned much in illness 
which I could have learned nowhere else in life. It is over, and I 
am quite brisk again, though for three whole weeks I have not left 
my room, and scarcely any one has visited me but my doctor, who, 
thank God ! is an amiable man ! An odd thing it is in us men : 
when I was in lively society I was out of spirits, now I am forsaken 
by all the world I am cheerful ; for even throughout my illness my 
cheerfulness has comforted my family, who were not in a condi- 
tion to comfort themselves, to say nothing of me. The new year's 
song which you have also received, I composed during an attack of 
great foolery, and had it printed for the sake of amusement. Besides 
this, I draw a great deal, write tales, and am contented with myself. 
God give me, this new year, what is good for me ; may He do the 
same for all of us, and if we pray for nothing more than this, we 
may certainly hope that He will give it us. If I can only get along 
till April, I shall easily reconcile myself to my condition. Then I 
hope things will be better ; in particular my health may make pro- 
gross daily, because it is now known precisely what is the matter 
with me. My lungs are as sound as possible, but there is something 
wrong at the stomach. And, in confidence, I have had hopes given 
mo of a pleasant, enjoyable mode of life, so that my mind is quite 
cheerful and at rest. As soon as I am better again I shall go away 
into foreign countries, and it must depend only on you and another 
person how soon I shall see Leipsic again ; in the meantime I think 

1769]. RETURN HOME. 61 

of going to France to see what French life is, and learn ^^® French 
language. So you can imagine what a charming man I shall be when 
I return to you. It often occurs to me, that it would be a laughable 
affair, if, in spite of all my projects, I were to die before Easter. 
In that case I would order a gravestone for myself in Leipsic church- 
yard, that at least every year on St. John's day you might visit the 
figure of St. John and my grave. What do you think V 

To celebrate his recovery. Rath Moritz gave a great party, at 
which all the Frankfurt friends assembled. In a little while, how- 
ever, another illness came to lay the poet low ; and, worse than all, 
there came the news from Leipsic that Kathchen was engaged to a 
Dr. Kanne, whom Goethe had introduced to her. This for ever decided 
his restlessness about her. Here is a letter from him. 
" My dear, my beloved friend, — 

" A dream last night has reminded me that I owe you an answer. 
Not that I had entirely forgotten it, — ^not that I never think of you : 
no, my dear friend, every day says something to me of you and of 
my faults. But it is strange, and it is an experience which perhaps 
you also know, the remembrance of the absent, though not extin- 
guished by time, is veiled. The distractions of our life, acquaintance 
with new objects, in short, every change in our circumstances, do to 
our hearts what smoke and dirt do to a picture, — they make the 
delicate touches quito undiscemible, and in such a way that one does 
not know how it comes to pass. A thousand things remind me of 
you ; I see your image a thousand times, but as faintly, and often 
with as little emotion, as if I thought of some one quite strange to 
me ; it often occurs to me that I owe you an answer, without my 
feeling the sUghtest impulse to write to you. Now, when I read 
your kind letter, wmch is already some months old, and see your 
friendship and your solicitude for one so unworthy, I am shocked at 
myself, and for the first time feel what a change has taken place in 
my heart, that I can be without joy at that which formerly would 
have lifted me up to heaven. Forgive me this ! Can one blame 
an unfortunate man because he is unable to rejoice ? My wretched- 
ness has made me dead to the good which still remains to me. My 
body is restored, but my mind is stiQ uncured. I am in dull, in- 
active repose ; that is not happiness. And in this quietude my 
imagination is so stagnant, that I can no longer picture to myself 
what was once dearest to me. It is only in a dream that my heart 
often appears to me as it is, — only a dream is capable of recalling to 
me the sweet images, of so recalling them as to reanimate my feel- 
ings ; I have already told you that you are indebted to a dream for 
this letter. I saw you, I was with you ; how it was, is too strange 


for me to relate to you. In one word, you were married. Is that 
true ? I took up your kind letter, and it agrees with the time ; if 
it is true, may that be the beginning of your happiness ! 

'' When I think of this disinterestedly, how does it rejoice me to 
know that you, my best friend, you, before every other who envied 
you and fancied herself better than you, are in the arms of a worthy 
husband ; to know that you are happy, and freed from eveiy annoy- 
ance to which a single state, and especially your single state, was 
exposed ! I thank my dream that it has vividly depicted your hap- 
piness to me, and the happiness of your husband, and his reward for 
having made you happy. Obtain me his friendship in virtue of your 
being my friend, for you must have all things in common, even 
including friends. If I may believe my dream we shall see each 
other again, but I hope not so very quickly, and for my part I shall 
try to defer its fulfilment. If, indeed, a man can undertake anything 
in opposition to destiny. Formerly I wrote to you somewhat enig- 
matically about what was to become of me. Now I may say more 
plainly that I am about to change my place of residence, and move 
farther from you. Nothing will any more remind me of Leipsic, 
except, perhaps, a restless dream ; no friend who comes from thence ; 
no letter. And yet I perceive that this will be no help to me. 
Patience, time, and distance will do that which nothing else can do ; 
they will annihilate eveiy unpleasant impression, and give us back 
our friendship, with contentment, with life, so that after a series of 
years we may see each other again with altogether different eyes, but 
with the same heart. Within a quarter of a year you shall have 
another letter from me, which will tell you of my destination and 
the time of my departure, and which can once more say to super- 
fluity what I have already said a thousand time^ I entreat you not 
to answer me any more ; if you have anything more to say to me, 
let me know it through a friend. That is a melancholy entreaty, my 
best ! you, the only one of all her sex, whom I cannot call friend, for 
that is an insignificant title compared with what I feel. I wish not 
to see your writing again, just as I wish not to hear your voice ; it 
is painful enough for me that my dreams are so busy. You shall 
have one more letter ; that promise I will sacredly keep, and so pay 
a part of my debts ; the rest you must forgive me." 

To round off this story, the following extract may be given from 
the last letter which has been preserved of those he wrote to her. 
It is dated Frankfurt, January 1770. 

'^ That I live peacefully is all that I can say to you of myself, and 
vigorously, and healthily, and industriously, for I have no woman in 
my head. Horn and I are still good friends, but, so it happens in the 

1770.] RETURN HOME, 63 

world, he has his thoughts and ways, and I have my thoughts andways, 
and so a week passes and we scarcely see each other once. But, every- 
thing considered, I am at last tired of Frankfurt, and at the end of 
March I shall leave it. I must not yet go to you, I perceive ; for if I 
came at Easter you could not be married. And Eathchen Schonkopf I 
will not see again, if I am not to see her otherwise than so. At the 
end of March, therefore, I go to Strasburg ; if you care to know that, 
as I believe you do. Will you write to me to Strasburg also ? You 
wiU play me no trick. For, Kathchen Schonkopf, now I know per- 
fectly that a letter from you is as dear to me as from any hand in 
the world. You were always a sweet girl and will be a sweet woman. 
And I, I shall remain Goethe. You know what that means. If I 
name my name, I name my whole self, and you know that so long as 
I have known you I have lived only as part of you." 

So fall away the young blossoms of love which have not the force 
to ripen into fruit. ^' The most loveable heart," he writes to Kath- 
chen, with a certain bit of humour, '' is that which loves the most 
readily ; but that which easily loves also easily forgets." It was his 
case j he could not be happy without some one to love ; but his 
mobile nature soon dried the tears wrung from him by her loss. 

Turning once more to his domestic condition, we find him in cold, 
unpleasant relations with his father, who had almost excited the 
hatred of his other child, Cornelia, by the stem, pedantic, pedagogic 
way in which he treated her. The old man continued to busy him- 
self with writing his travels in Italy, and with instructing his 
daughter. She, who was of a restless, excitable, almost morbid dis- 
position, secretly rebelled against his tyranny, and made her brother 
the confidant of all her griefs. The poor mother had a terrible time 
of it, trying to pacify the children, and to stand between them and 
their father. 

Very noticeable is one detail recorded by him. He had fallen ill 
again ; this time with a stomach disorder, which no therapeutic treat- 
ment in the power of Frankfurt medicine seemed to mitigate. The 
family physician was one of those duped dupers who still clung to 
the great promises of Alchemy. It was whispered that he had in his 
possession a marvellous panacea, which was only to be employed in 
times of greatest need, and of which, indeed, no one dared openly 
speak. Frau Aja, trembling for her son, besought him to employ 
this mysterious salt. He consented. The patient recovered, and 
belief in the physician^s skill became more complete. Not only was 
the poet thus restored once more to health, he was also thereby led 
to the study of Alchemy, and, as ho narrates, employed himself in 
researches after the ^Wirgin earth." In the little study of that 


house in the Hirsch-graben, he collected his glasses and retorts, and 
following the directions of authorities, sought, for a time, to pene- 
trate the mystery which then seemed so penetrable. It is charac- 
teristic of his ardent curiosity and volatility that he should have now 
devoted the long hours of study to works such as Welling's Opus 
MagO'Cahbalisticum et Tlicosophicum, and the unintelligible mystifi- 
cations and diatribes of Paracelsus. He also tried Van Helmont (an 
interesting though fantastic writer), Basil Valentine, and other Al- 
chemists. These, however, must quickly have been laid aside. They 
were replaced by the "Compendium'' and the "Aphorisms'' of 
Boerhaave, who at that period filled Europe with the sound of his 
name.* Goethe's studies of these writings were valuable as prepara- 
tions for Faust ; and were not without influence on his subsequent 
career in science. 

Renewed intercourse with Fraulein von Klettenberg, together with 
much theological and philosophical reading, brought Religion into 
prominence in his thoughts. He has given a sketch of the sort of 
Neoplatonic Christianity into which his thoughts moulded them- 
selves ; but as this sketch was written so very many years after the 
period to which it relates, one cannot well accept its authenticity. 
For biographic purposes it is enough to indicate that, besides these 
Alchemic studies. Religion rose also into serious importance. Poetry 
seemed quite to have deserted him, although he still occasionally 
touched up his two plays. In a letter he humorously exposes the 
worthlessness of the Bardenpoesie, then in fashion among versifiers, 
who tried to be patriotic and Tyrtaean by huddling together golden 
helmets, flashing swords, the tramp of horses, and when the verse 
went lame for want of a syllable, supplying an Oh ! or Ha ! " Make 
me feel," he says, "what I have not yet felt, — ^make me think what 
I have not yet thought, then I will praise you. But shrieks and 
noise will never supply the place of pathos." 

Paoli, the Corsican Patriot, passed through Frankfurt at this time, 
and Goethe saw him in the house of Bethmann, the rich merchant ; 
but, with this exception, Frankfurt presented nothing remarkable to 
him, and he was impatient to escape from it. His health was suffi- 
ciently restored for his father to hope that now Jurisprudence could 
be studied with some success; and Strasburg was the university 
selected for that purpose. 

• So little can contemporary verdicts settle an author's position, that Boerhaave, 
whose " Institutions" were thought worthy of a Commentary in seven quartos by 
the great Haller, and whose " Aphorisms" were expanded into five quartos by the 
illufltriotts Van Swieten, is now nothing but a name. 

1770.] STRASBURQ. ^ 



Hb reached Strasburg on the 2nd April, 1770. He was now turned 
twenty, and a more magnificent youth never, perhaps, entered the 
Strasburg gates. Long before celebrity had fixed all eyes upon him 
he was likened to an Apollo ; and once, when he entered a dining- 
room, people laid down their knives and forks to stare at the beauti- 
ful youth. Pictures and busts, even when most resembling, give but 
a feeble indication of that which was most striking in his appearance ; 
they give the form of features, but not the play of features ; nor are 
they very accurate as to the form. His features were large and 
liberally cut, as in the fine sweeping lines of Greek art. The brow 
was lofty and massive, and from beneath it shone large lustrous brown 
eyes of marvellous beauty, their pupils being of almost unexampled 
size. The slightly aquiline nose was large, and well cut. The mouth 
was full, with a short, arched upper lip, very sensitive and expressive. 
The chin and jaw boldly proportioned; and the head rested on a 
handsome and muscular neck. 

In stature he was rather above the middle size ; but although not 
really tall, he had the aspect of a tall man,, and is usually so described, 
because his presence was very imposing.* His frame was strong, 
muscular, yet sensitive. Dante says this contrast is in the nature 
of things, for — 

** QuAnta la oosa ^ pid perfetta, 
Hil senta '1 bene, e coei la doglienza." 

Excelling in all active sports, he was almost a barometer in sensi- 
tiveness to atmospheric influences. 

Such, externally, was the youth who descended at the hotel zum 
Oeist, in Strasburg, this 2nd April, and who, ridding himself of the 
dust and eniiui of a long imprisonment in the Diligence, sallied forth 
to gaze at the famous Cathedral, which made a wonderful impression 
on him as he came up to it through the narrow streets. The Stras- 

* Ranch, the sculptor, who made the weU-known statuette of Goethe, explamed 
this to me as owing to his large bust and erect carriage. 


burg Cathedral not inaptly serves as the symbol of his early German 
tendencies ; and its glorious tower is always connected, in my mind, 
with the brief but ardent endeavours of his Hellenic nature to throw 
itself into the old German world. German his spirit was not, but 
we shall see him, under the shadow of this tower, for a moment in- 
spired with true German enthusiasm. 

His lodgings secured — ^No. 80, on the south side of the Fish- 
market — ^he delivered his letters of introduction, and arranged to 
dine at a tahU d'hSte kept by two maiden ladies, named Lauth, in the 
Kramergasse, No. 13. The guests here were about ten in number, 
mostly medical. Their president was Dr. Salzmann, a clean old 
bachelor of eight and forty, scrupulous in his stockings, immaculate 
as to his shoes and buckles, with hat under his arm, and scarcely 
ever on his head — a neat, dapper, old gentleman, well instructed, 
and greatly liked by the poet, to whom he gave excellent advice, and 
for whom he found a valuable repetent,* In spite of the services of 
this excellent repetent, jurisprudence wearied him considerably, ac- 
cording to his account ; at first, however, he seems to have taken to 
it with some pleasure, as we learn by a letter, in which he tells 
Fraulein von Klettenberg a different story : — " Jurisprudence begins 
to please me very much. Thus it is with all things as with Merse- 
burg beer : the first time we shudder at it, and having drunk it for 
a week, we cannot do without it.'* The study of jurisprudence, at 
any rate, did not absorb him. SchoU has published a notebook kept 
during this period, which reveals an astonishing activity in desultory 
research.t When we remember that the society at his table d'lidte 
was principally of medical students, we are prepared to find him 
eagerly throwing himself into the study of anatomy and chemistiy. 
He attended Lobstein's lectures on Anatomy, Ehrmann's clinical 
lectures, with those of his son on midwifery, and Spielman's on 
chemistry. Electricity occupied him, Franklin's great discovery 
having brought that subject into prominence. No less than nine 
works on electricity are set down in the notebook to be studied. We 
also see from this notebook that chromatic subjects begin to attract 
him — the future antagonist of Newton was preluding in the science. 
Alchemy still fascinated him ; and he wrote to Fraulein von Kletten- 
berg, assuring her that these mystical studies were his secret mis- 

* The medical student wiU best understaiid what a repetent is, if the word be 
transhited a ffrinder ; the university student, if the word be transUited a coach. The 
repetent prepares students by an examination, and also by repeating and explaining 
in private what the professor has tau^t in the lecture hall. 

t Brief e und Aufaatte von Qoethe. Herausgegeben von Adolf Sch5ll. In this, 
as in his other valuable work, Sch5U is not content simply to reprint papers en- 
trusted to him, but enriches them by his own careful, accurate editing. 

1770.] STRASBURG. 67 

tresses. With such a direction of his thoughts, and the influence of 
this pure, pious woman still operating upon him, we can imagine the 
disgust which followed his study of the Systime de la Nature, then 
making so great a noise in the world. This dead and dull expo- 
sition of an atheism as superficial as it was dull, must have been 
everyway revolting to him : irritating to his piety, and unsatisfying 
to his reason. Voltaire's wit and Bousseau's sarcasms he could copy 
into his notebook, especially when they pointed in the direction of 
tolerance ; but he who could read Bayle, Voltaire, and Rousseau with 
delight, turned from the Systime de la Nature with scorn ; especially 
at a time when we find him taking the sacrament, and trying to keep 
up an acquaintance with the pious families to which Fraulein von 
Elettenberg had introduced him. I say trying, because even his 
goodwill could not long withstand their dulness and narrowness ; he 
was forced to give them up, and confessed so much to his friend. 
/'Shortly after his arrival in Strasburg, namely in May 1770, an 
event occurred which agitated the town, and gave h\m an oppor- 
tunity of seeing, for the first time, BaphaePs cartoons. Marie An- 
toinette, the dauphiness of Prance elect, was to pass through on her 
way to Paris. On a small island on the Bhine a building was erected 
for her reception ; and this was adorned with tapestries worked after 
the cartoons. These tapestries roused his enthusiasm ; but he was 
shocked to find that they were placed in the side chambers, while 
the chief salon was hung with tapestries worked after pictures by 
modem French artists. That Baphael should thus be thrown into a 
subordinate position was less exasperating to him than the subjects 
chosen from the modem artists. '^ These pictures were the history • 
of Jason, Medea, and Creusa — consequently, a story of a most 
wretched marriage. To the left of the throne was seen the bride 
struggling against a horrible death, surrounded by persons full of 
sympathetic grief; to the right stood the father, horror-struck at 
the murdered babes at his feet ; whilst the fury, in her dragon car, 
drove through the air.'' 

All the ideas which he had learned from Oeser were outraged by 
this selection. He did not quarrel so much with the arrangement 
which placed Christ and the Apostles in side chambers, since he had 
thereby been enabled to enjoy the sight of them. ^' But a blunder 
like that of the grand saloon put me altogether out of my self- 
possession, and with loud and vehement cries I called to my com- 
rades to witness the insult against feeling and taste. ^What!' I 
exclaimed, regardless of bystanders, 'can they so thoughtlessly 
place before the eyes of a young queen, on her first setting foot in 




and Ids wanderings ended in marbyrdom. Nothing could shake his 
faith ; as he loftily says, '' con questa filosofia Panima mi s'aggran- 
disce e mi si magnifica Pintelletto." 

Goethe's notes on Bayle's criticism may be given here, as illus- 
trating his metaphysical opinions and his mastery of French compo- 
sition. We can be certain of the authenticity of the French : in 
spite of inaccuracies and inelegancies, it is fluent and expressive, and 
gives one the idea of greater conversational conmiand of the language 
than he reports of himself. 

''Je ne suis pas du sentiment de M. Bayle & F^gard de Jor. 
Brunus, et je ne trouve ni d*impi4t^ ni d'absurdite dans les passages 
qu'il cite, quoique d'ailleurs je ne pr^tende pas d'excuser cet homme 
paradoxe. 'L'uno, Pinfinito, lo ente e quelle ch' h in tutto, e per 
tutto anzi ^ Vistezzo ubique. B che cosse la infinita dimenzione per 
non essere magnitudine coincide coll' individuo, come la infinita 
moltitudine, per non esser numero coincide coll' unita.' Oiord. Bran. 
Ejpist, Bed, del Tratt. de la Causa Principio et Uno.^ 

" Ce passage m^riteroit une explication et une recherche plus phi- 
losophiques que le disc, de M. Bayle. 11 est plus facile de prononcer 
un passage obscur et contraire d. nos notions que de le d^chiffrer, et 
que de suivre les id^es d'un grand homme. II est de mSme du pas- 
sage oA il plaisante sur une id^e de Brunus, que je n'applaudis pas 
enti^rement, si pen que les pr^c^dentes, mais que je crois du moins 
profondes et peut-fitre fScondes pour un observateur judicieux. 
Notez, je vous prie, de B. une absurdity : il dit que ce n'est point 
I'Stre qui fait qu'il y a beaucoup de choses, mais que cette multitude 
consiste dans ce qui paroit sur la superfice de la substance." 

In the same Note-book there is a remarkable comment on a chapter 
in Fabricius {Bihliog, Antiq.) which Goethe has written in Latin, and 
which may be thus rendered : " To discuss God apart from Nature 
is both diflicult and perilous ; it is as if we separated the soul from 
the body. We know the soul only through the medium of the body, 
and God only through Nature. Hence the absurdity, as it appears 
to me, of accusing those of absurdity who philosophically have united 
God with the world. For everything which exists, necessarily per- 
tains to the essence of God, because God is the one Being whose 
existence includes all things. Nor does the Holy Scripture contra- 
dict this, although we differently interpret its dogmas each according 

• " The One, tho Infinite, the Being, and that which is in all things ia everywhere 
the same. Thus infinite extension not being magnitude coincides with the indivi- 
dual, as infinite multitude because it is not number coincides with unity." The 
words in italics are given as in Goethe — carelessly copied for Viatesso and cosi. See 
BfiUNO, Opere, i, p. 211, ed. Wagner. 

1770.] STRA8BVR0. 71 

to his views. All antiquity thought in the same way ; an unanimity 
which to me has great significance. To me the judgment of so 
many men speaks highly for the rationality of the doctrine of emana* 
tion ; though I am of no sect, and grieve much that Spinoza should 
have coupled this pure doctrine with his detestable errors.''* 
This reference to Spinoza, whom he subsequently reverenced as 
one of his best teachers, is easily explicable when we reflect that 
he then knew no more of Spinoza than could be gathered from 

Time was not all consumed by these studies, multifarious as they 
were. Lively Strasburg had its amusements, and Goethe joined his 
friend Salzmann in many a pleasant party. The various pleasure 
grounds and public gardens were always crowded with promenaders, 
and there the mixture of the old national costume with modem 
fashions gave charming variety to the scene, and made the pretty 
women still more attractive. 

He found himself in the presence of two sharply-defined nation- 
alities. Alsatia, and especially Strasburg, although belonging to 
France, still preserved its old German character. Eight hundred years 
of national life were not to be set aside at once, when it pleased the 
powers, at the peace of Westphalia, to say that Alsatia should be 
French. Until the middle of the eighteenth century the old German 
speech, costume, and manners were so dominant, that a Frankfurter, 
or a Mainzer, found himself at once at home there. But just before 
the outbreak of the French Revolution the gradual influx of officials 
brought about a sort of fashion in French costume. Milliners, fri- 
seurs, and dancing masters had done their best, or their worst, to 
'' polish" society. But the surface was rough, and did not take 
kindly to this polishing. Side by side with the French employ^, there 
was the old German professor, who obstinately declined to acquire 
more of the foreigners' language than sufficed for daily needs and 
household matters ; for the rest he kept sturdily Teutonic. Even in 

* I Babjoin the original, as the reader may not be displeased to see a specimen 
of Goethe's Latin composition : S^Muratim de Deo> et natora rermn disserere diffi- 
cile et pericoloenm est, eodem modo qnam si de corpore et anima s^nnctim cogi- 
tamus. ATiiTniLTn nonnisi mediante corpore, Denm nonnisi perspecta natnra cognos- 
cimus ; hinc absurdnm mihi videtur, eos a^urditatis accosare,^ qui ratiocinatione 
maxime philosophica Doom cum mundo conjunzere. Qun enim sunt omnia ad 
eesentiam Dei pertinere necesse est, cum Deus sit unicum existens et omnia com- 
prehendat. Nee Sacer Codex nostne sententiss refraffatur, ci\jus tamen dicta ab 
unoQuoque in sententiam suam torqueri patientur lerimus. Omnis^anti^uitatis 
cgusdem toit sententias, cui consensui quam multum tribuo. Testimonio enim mihi 
est Tirorum tantorum sententia rectee rationi quam convenientissimum iuisse sys- 
tema emanativum, licet nulli subscribere velim sectoB, valdeque doleam Sjpinozis- 
mum, teterrimis erroribus ex eodem fonte manantibus, doctrinsD huic purissmiSB ini- 
quissimum firatrem natum esse. 


costome the imitation was mainly confined to the npper classes.* 
Goethe describes the maidens of the bourgeoisie still wearing their 
hair in one long plait^ falling behind^ and their petticoats of pic- 
turesque but perilous brevity. 

Salzmann introduced him to several families^ and thus more than 
by all his advice helped to soften down the exuberant expression of 
animal spirits which very often sinned against quiet conventionalities ; 
for by inducing him to frequent society^ it forced him to learn that 
demeanour which society imperatively demands. In Wilhelm Meis* 
ter great stress is laid upon the culture necessary to fit a man of 
genius for society ; and one of the great motives advanced for the 
pursuance of a theatrical career is the facility it affords a man of 
gaining address. 

An excitable impetuous youth^ ambitious of shining in society, yet 
painfully conscious of the unsuitableness of his previous training for 
the attainment of that quietness deemed so necessary, would require 
to attend to every trifie which might afiect his deportment. Thus, 
although he had magnificent hair, he allowed the hairdresser to tie it 
up in a bag, and affix a false queue. This obliged him to remain 
propped up powdered, from an early hour of the morning, and also 
to keep from overheating himself and from violent gestures, lest he 
should betray the false ornament. " This restraint contributed much 
towards making me for a time more gentle and polite in my bearing ; 
and I got accustomed to shoes and stockings, and to carrying my hat 
under my arm ; I did not, however, neglect wearing fine under- 
stockings as a protection against the Rhine gnats.'^ To these qua- 
lifications as a cavalier, he added those of an excellent swordsman 
and rider. With his fellow-students he had abimdant exercise in the 
use of the rapier ; and prompted, I presume, by his restless desire 
to do all that his friends did, he began to learn the violoncello ! 

His circle of friends widened ; and even that of his fellow-boarders 
in the Kramergasse increased. Among the latter, two deserve 
special mention — Jung Stilling and Franz Lerse. Stilling has pre- 
served an account of their first meeting.f About twenty were as- 
sembled at dinner, when a young man entered the room in high 
spirits, whose large clear eyes, splendid brow, and beautifully 
proportioned figure; irresistibly drew the attention of Troost and 
Stilling. The former remarked, " That must be an extraordinary 
man !" Stilling assented ; but feared lest they might be somewhat 
annoyed by him, he looked such a wild rollicking fellow. Meanwhile 

• Stosbeb : Der Aktuar Salzmann : 1865, p. 7. 
t Stillino'b Wanderachaft, p. 168. 


m i earned that this student, whose nnconstrained freedom and 
;i I > made them draw under their shells, was named Herr Groethe. 
t^ . V proceeded, Goethe, who sat opposite Stilling, had com- 
i- y the lead in conversation, without once seeking it. At length 
P t' the company began quizzing the wig of poor Stilling ; and the 
g^. as relished by all except Troost, Salzmann, and one who, indig- 
- y reproving them for making game of so inoffensive a person, 
.^r ' ed the ridicule inmiediately ; this was none other than the 
-eyed student whose appearance had excited Stilling's uneasi- 
The friendship thus begim, was continued by the sympathy 
tender affectionateness Goethe always displayed towards the 
^>le, earnest, and unfriended thinker, whose deep religious convic- 
s^ and trusting chUd-like nature, singularly interested him. 
the was never tired of Ustening to the story of his life. In- 
ctively he sought on all sides to penetrate the mysteries of hu- 
lity, and, by probing every man's experience, to make it his own. 
!'e was a poor charcoal-burner, who from tailoring had passed to 
-ping a school; that failing, he had resumed his needle; and 
ring joined a religious sect, had, in silent communion with his own 
ul, gained for himself a sort of culture which raised him above the 
ilinary height of men : — ^what was there in his life or opinions to 
iptivate the riotous, sceptical, prosperous student? There was 
t imestness—ihere was genuineness, Goethe was eminently quahfied 
) become the friend of one who held opposite convictions to his own, 
or his tolerance was large and genuine, and he respected every real 
onviction. Sympathising with Stilling, listening to him, and dex- 
terously avoiding any interference with his religious faith, he was not 
only enabled to be his friend, but also to learn quietly and surely the 
inner nature of such men. 

Franz Lerse attracted him by different qualities : upright manli- 
ness, scrupulous orderliness, dry humour, and a talent for reconciling 
antagonists. As a memorial of their friendship his name is given to 
the gallant fellow in Ootz von Berlichmgen, who knows how to subor- 
dinate himself with dignity, 

Salzmann had some years before founded a sort of club, or, as 
Stilling calls it, Oesellsckaft der schimen Wissenschaften, the object 
of which was to join a book society with a debating club. In 1763-4 
this club had among its members no less a person that O. F. Miiller, 
the renowned helminthologist ; and now in 1770-1 it numbered, 
among others, Goethe, Lerse, Jung Stilling, Lenz, Weyland, and, as 
a guest, was honoured by the presence of Herder, who was then 
writing his work on the Origin of Language. 



Generally speakings Goethe is so liberal in information about hia 
friends and contemporaries^ and so sparing of precise indications of his 
own condition, that we are left in the dark respecting much that would 
be welcome knowledge. There is one thing mentioned by him which 
is .very significant : although his health was sufficiently established for 
ordinary purposes, he still suffered from great irritability. Loud 
sounds were disagreeable to him ; diseased objects aroused loathing 
and horror. And he was especially troubled with giddiness, which 
came over him whenever he looked down from a height. All these 
infirmities he resolved to conquer, and that somewhat violently. In 
the evening when they beat the tattoo, he went close to the drums, 
though the powerful rolling and beating of so many seemed enough 
to make his heart burst in his bosom. Alone he ascended the 
highest pinnacle of the cathedral, and sat in what is called the neck, 
under the crown, for a quarter of an hour before venturing to step 
out again into the open air. Standing on a platform, scarcely an ell 
square, he saw before him a boundless prospect, the church and the 
supports of his standing place being concealed by the ornaments. 
He felt exactly as if carried up in a balloon. These painful sensa- 
tions he repeated until they became quite indifferent; he subse- 
quently derived great advantage from this conquest, in mountainous 
excursions and geological studies. Anatomy was also of double 
value, as it taught him to tolerate the most repulsive sights while 
satisfying his thirst for knowledge. He succeeded so well, that no 
hideous sight could disturb his self-possession. He also sought to 
steel himself against the terrors of imagination. The awful and 
shuddering impressions of darkness in churchyards, solitary places, 
churches and chapels by night, he contrived to render indifferent — 
so much so, that when a desire came over him to recall in such scenes 
the pleasing shudder of youth, he could scarcely succeed even by the 
strangest and most terrific images. 

Two love poems, written during this year — Stirht der Pilch's so 
gilt der Balg, and Blinde Kuh — ^put us on the scent of flirtations. 
He is silent respecting Dorilis and Theresa in his autobiography ; 
and in ordinaiy cases a biographer would accept that silence, with- 
out drawing any conclusion from the poems. No one hereafter will 
think of identifying the Claribels, Isabels, and Madelines, with young 
ladies whom our poets met in society, and who led captive their 
inconstant hearts. With Goethe it is otherwise. All his poems 
grow out of occasions : they are flowers of which circumstance is the 
earth. Utterances of real feelings to real beings, they are unlike all 

1770.] STRASBURQ. 75 

coquettmgs with imaginary beauties. His poems are evidencjes.* 
Unhappily, the bare /ac^ in this instance is all we can discover. 

One flirtation, however, was not so easily effaced. From childhood 
his strange didactic father had instmcted him and his sister in 
dancing, a task which seemd rather ludicrous as we picture to our- 
selves the cold, formal, rigorous old Frankfurter. He was perfectly 
unconscious of any incongruity. With the utmost gravity he drilled 
them into a minuet, playing to them on the flageolet. Goethe's 
dancing had been for sometime neglected, and when he stood up to 
a minuet once at Leipzig, he got through it so awkwardly as to 
draw upon himself the suspicion of having done so to prevent being 
invited again. 

A handsome youth unable to dance was an anomaly in Strasburg. 
Not a Sunday evening passed without the pleasure gardens being 
crowded vdth gay dancers ; galas frequently enlivened the week ; and 
the merry Alsatians, then as now, seldom met but they commenced 
spinning round in the waltz. Into these gardens, amidst these 
waltzers, Goethe constantly went — ^yet could not waltz. He resolved 
at length to learn. A friend recommended him to a dancing-master 
of repute, who soon pronounced himself gratified with the pro- 
gress made. 

This master, a dry, precise, but amiable Frenchman, had two 
daughters, who assisted him at his lessons, acting both as partners 
and correctors. Two pretty girls, both under twenty, charming 
with French vivacity and coquetry, could not fail to interest the 
young poet ; nor could the graceful, handsome youth fail to create 
an impression on two girls whose lives were somewhat lonesome. 
Symptoms of this interest very soon showed themselves. The mis- 
fortune was that the state of their feelings made what dramatists call 
** a situation.'' Goethe's heart inchned towards Emilia, who loved 
another ; while that of Lucinda, the elder sister, was bestowed upon 
him. Emilia was afraid to trust herself too much with him; but 
Lucinda was always at hand, ready to waltz with him, to protract his 
lesson, or to show him Uttle attentions. There were not many 
pupils ; so that he often remained after his lesson to 'chat away the 
time, or to read aloud to them a romance : dangerous moments ! 

He saw how things stood, yet puzzled himself about the reserve 
of the younger sister. The cause of it came out at last. One even- 
ing, after the dance was over, Lucinda detained him in the dancing- 

* I find Yiehoff insiBting on a similar dae : he supposes Dorilis and Theresa 
(probably one and the same person) to be real persons, and that Goethe knew them 
ttut>Qgh Salzmann. Mr. Demmler argaes with some force that Dorilis oan be none 
other than Frederika,— of whom more anon. 



room^ telling him that her sister was in the sitting-room with a 
fortane-teller^ who was disclosing the condition of a lover to whom 
the girl's heart was given. '' Mine,'' said Lucinda, '' is free, and I 
must get used to its being slighted/' 

He tried to pany this thrust by divers Uttle compliments ; and, 
indiscreetly enough, advised her to try her own fate with the fortune- 
teller, offering to do the same himself. Lucinda did not like that 
tampering with fate, declaring that the disclosures of the oracle 
were too true to be made a matter of sport. Probably this piqued 
liiTTi into a little more earnestness than he had shown, for ultimately 
he persuaded her to go into the sitting-room with him. They found 
Emilia much pleased with the information that she had received 
from the pythoness, who was highly flattered at the new devotee to 
her shrine. A handsome reward was promised her if she should 
disclose the truth. With the customary ceremonial she began to 
tell the fortune of the elder sister. She hesitated. '' Oh, I see," 
said Emilia, " that you have something unpleasant to tell." Lucinda 
turned pale, but said, " Speak out ; it will not cost me my life." 
The fortune-teller heaved a deep sigh, and proceeded with her dis- 
closures. Lucinda, she said, was in love ; but her love was not re- 
turned j another person standing in the way. And she went on 
with more in the same style. It is not difficult to imagine that the 
sybil should readily enough interpret the little drama which was 
then acting by the youth and two girls before her eyes. Lucinda 
showed evidence of distress; and the old woman endeavoured to 
give a better turn to the affair by throwing out hopes of letters and 
money. '' Letters," said Lucinda, '^ I do not expect ; and money I 
do not want. If I love as you say, I have a right to be loved in 
return." The fortune-teller shuffled the cards again ; but that only 
made matters worse ; the girl now appeared in the oracular vision 
in greater trouble, her lover at a greater distance. A third shuffle 
of the cards was still worse ; Lucinda burst into a passionate flood of 
tears, and rushed from the room. " Follow her," said Emilia, '' and 
comfort her." But he hesitated, not seeing what comfort he could 
well give, as he could not assure her of some return for her affection. 
''Let us go together," he replied. Emilia doubted whether her 
presence would do good ; but she consented. Lucinda had locked 
herself in ; and paying the old woman for her work, Goethe left 
the house. 

He had scarcely courage to revisit the sisters ; but on the third 
day Emilia sent for him, and he received his lesson as usual. 
Lucinda, however, was absent ; and when he asked for her, Emilia 

1770.] BTRASBURG. 77 

told him that she was in bed^ declaring that she should die. She 
had thrown out great reproaches against him for his ungrateAil be- 
haviour. " And yet I do not know,'' said he, " that I am guilty of 
haying expressed any sort of affection for her. I know somebody 
who can bear me witness of that.'' Emilia smiled. '' I comprehend," 
she said ; ^^ but if we are not careftil we shall all find ourselves in a 
disastrous position. Forgive me if I say that you must not go on 
with your lessons. My father says that he is ashamed to take your 
money any longer, unless you mean to pursue the art of dancing ; 
since you know already what is needed by a young man in the world." 
" Do you tell me to avoid the house, Emilia ?" He asked. "Yes," 
she said ; '^ but not on my own account. When you had gone the other 
day, I had the cards cut for you ; and the same answer was given 
thrice. You were surrounded by firiends, and all sorts of good for- 
tune; but the ladies kept aloof from you; my poor sister stood 
furthest of aU. One other constantly came near to you ; but never 
close ; for a third person, a man, always came between. I will con- 
fess that I thought I was myself this second lady ; and now you will 
understand my advice. I have promised myself to another, and 
until now I loved him more than any one. Yet your presence might 
become more dangerous to me than it has been ; and then what a 
position would be yours between two sisters, one of whom you would 
have made miserable by your affection, and the other by your cold- 
ness." She held out her hand and bade him farewell ; she then led 
him to the door ; and in token that it was to be their last meeting, 
she threw herself upon his bosom and kissed him tenderly. Just as 
he had put his arms round her, a side door flew open, and her sister, 
in a light but decorous dressiug gown, rushed in, crying, "You 
shall not be the only one to take leave of him I " Emilia released 
him. Lucinda took him in her arms, pressed her black locks against 
his cheeks ; remained thus for some time, and then drawing back 
looked him earnestly in the face. He took hei* hand, and tried to 
muster some kind expressions to soothe her ; but* she turned away, 
walked passionately up and down the room, and then threw herself 
in great agitation into a comer of the sofa. Emilia went up to her, 
but was violently repulsed ; and a scene ensued, which had in it, 
says the principal performer, nothing reaDy theatrical, although it 
could only be represented on the stage by an actor of sensibility. 
Lucinda poured forth reproaches against her sister. " This," said 
she, " is not the first heart beating for me that you have wheedled 
away. Was it not so with the one now betrothed to you, while I 
looked on and bore it ? I, only, know the tears it cost me ; and 


now yon would rob me of this one. How many would you manage 
to keep at once ? I am frank and easy-tempered^ and all think they 
understand me at once^ and may slight me. You are secret and 
quiet^ and make people wonder at what may be concealed behind : 
there is nothing there but a cold, selfish heart, sacrificing everything 
to itself.^' Emilia seated herself by her sister, and remained silent, 
while Lucinda, growing more excited, began to betray matters not 
quite proper for hiTn to hear. Emilia made a sign to him to with- 
draw. But Lucinda caught the sound, sprang towards him, and 
then remained lost in thought. " I know that I have lost you,'' she 
said : " I claim you no more ; — ^but neither shall you have him." 
So saying, she grasped him wildly by the head, with her hands 
thrust among his hair, pressed her face to his, and kissed him re- 
peatedly on the mouth. ^' Now fear my curse ! Woe upon woe, 
for ever and ever, to her who for the first time after me kisses these 
lips ! Dare to sport with him now I Heaven hears my curse ! And 
you, begone, begone while you may 1" 

He hurried from the house never to return. Is not this narrative 
like a scene in a novel ? The excited Uttle Frenchwoman — ^the be- 
wildered poet — the old fortune-teller, and the dry old dancing-master, 
faintly sketched, in the background, are the sort of figures a novelist 
would delight in. 




One thing very noticeable in this Strasburg period is the thoroughly 
Oerman culture it gave him. In those days culture was mostly clas- 
sical and French. Classical studies had never exercised much influ- 
ence over him ; and, indeed, throughout his career, he approached 
antiquity more through Art than through the Grreek and Roman 
writers. To the French, on the other hand, he owed a great deal, 
both of direction and material. A revival of the old German nation- 
ality was, however, actively agitated at this epoch. Elopstock, 
Lessing, Herder, Shakspeare, and Ossian were the rivals opposed to 
France. A feeling of national pride gave its momentum to this 
change in taste. Gothic art began to be considered the true art of 
modem times. * 

At the table d'hdte our friends, all German, not only banished the 
French language, but made a point of being in every way unlike the 
French. French literature was ridiculed as affected, insincere, un- 
natural. The truth, homely strength, and simpUcity of the German 
character were set against this literature of courtiers. Goethe had 
been dabbling in mediaeval studies, had been awe-struck by the 
cathedral, had been inspired by Shakspeare, and had seen Lessing's 
iconoclastic wit scattering the pretensions of French poetry. More- 
over, he had read the biography of Ootz von Berlichingeriy and the 
picture of that Titan in an age of anarchy had so impressed itself 
upon him, that the conception of a dramatic reproduction of it had 
grown up in his mind. Favst also lay there as a germ. The legend 
of that wonder-worker especially attracted him, now that he was in 
the condition into which youths so readily fall after a brief and un- 
satisfactory attempt to penetrate the mysteries of science. " Like 
him, too, I had swept the circle of science, and had early learned its 
vanity; like him I had trodden various paths, always returning un- 
satisfied.^' The studies of alchemy, medicine, jurisprudence, philo- 
sophy, and theology, which had so long engaged him, must have 
made him feel quite a personal interest in the old Faust legend. 

In such a mood the acquaintance with Herder was of great import- 
ance. Herder was five years his senior, and had already created a 


name for himself. He came to Strasburg with an eye-disease^ which 
obliged him to remain there the whole winter^ during the cure. 
Goethe, charmed with this new vigorous intellect, attended on him 
during the operation, and sat with him morning; and evening during 
his convalescence, listening to the wisdom which fell from those lips, 
as a pupil listens to a much-loved master. Great was the contrast 
between the two men, yet the difference did not separate them. 
Herder was decided, clear, pedagogic ; knowing his own aims, and 
fond of communicating his ideas. Goethe was sceptical and inquiring. 
Herder rude, sarcastic, and bitter; Goethe amiable and infinitely 
tolerant. The bitterness which repelled so many friends from Herder, 
could not repel Goethe : it was a peculiarity of his to be at all times 
able to learn from antagonistic natures ; meeting them on the com- 
mon ground of sympathy, he avoided those subjects on which in- 
evitably they must clash. It is somewhat curious that although 
Herder took a great liking to his young friend, and was grateful for 
his kind attentions, he seems to have had little suspicion of his genius. 
The only fragment we have of that period, which gives us a hint of 
his opinion, is in a letter to his bride, dated February 1 772 : '' Goethe 
is really a good fellow, only somewhat light and sparrow-like,* for 
which I incessantly reproach him. He was almost the only one who 
visited me during my illness in Strasburg whom I saw with pleasure ; 
and I believe I influenced him in more ways than one to his advan- 
tage.^' His own conceit may have stood between Goethe and him- 
self ; or he may have been too conscious of his young friend's de- 
fects to think much of his genius. " Herder, Herder,^' Goethe writes 
to him from Strasburg, " be to me what you are. If I am destined 
to be your planet, so will I be, and wilUngly and truly, a friendly moon 
to your earth. But you must feel that I would rather be Mercury, 
the last, the smallest of the seven, to revolve with you about the 
sun, than the first of the five yrhich turn round Satum.'^t Iii oii© 
of the many inaccuracies of his Autobiography, he says, that he 
withheld from Herder his intention of writing " Gotz'' ; but there is 
a passage in Herder's work on German Art> addressed to Goethe, 
which very plainly alludes to this intention.]: Such oversights are 
inevitable in retracing the minor details of the past. 

* Nwr etwcu leieht und SpaUenmasHg : I tranBlate tlie plirase, leaving the reader 
to interpret it, for twenty Oermans have given twenty different meanings to the 
word " 8parrow-like'% some referring to the chattering of sparrowB, others to the 
boldness of sparrows, others to the curiosity of sparrows, and others to the libertine 
character of sparrows. Whether Herder meant gay, volatile, forward, careless, or 
amorous, I cannot decide. 

t Au8 Herder's Naehlaas, i, p. 28. 

X Hjebdeb : Von deuUehen Art vmd Kunst, p. 112. 



There was indeed contrast enough between the two^ in age, cha- 
racter, intellect, and knowledge, to have prevented any very close 
sympathy. Herder loved the abstract and ideal in men and things, 
and was for ever criticising and complaining of the individual, because 
it did not realise his^deal standard. What Gervinus says of Herder^s 
relation to Lessing, namely, that he loved him when he considered 
him as a whole, but could never cease plaguing him about details, 
holds good also of his relation to Goethe through life. Goethe had 
little of that love of mankind in the abstract, which to Herder, and 
so many others, seems the substitute for individual love, — ^which 
animates philanthropists who are sincere in their philanthropy, even 
when they are bad husbands, bad fathers, bad brothers, and bad 
friends. He had, instead of this, the most overflowing love for indi- 
vidual men. His concrete and affectionate nature was more attracted 
to men than to abstractions. It is because many do not recognise 
this that they declaim against him for his '^ indifference'^ to political 
matters, to history, and to many of the great questions which affect 

Herder's influence on Goethe was manifold, but mainly in the di- 
rection of poetry. He taught him to look at the Bible as a magni- 
ficent illustration of the truth that Poetry is the product of a national 
spirit, not the privilege of a cultivated few. From the poetry of the 
Hebrew People he led him to other illustrations of national song ; 
and here Homer and Ossian were placed highest. It was at this 
time that Ossian made the tour of Europe, and everywhere met be- 
lievers. Goethe was so delighted with the wild northern singer, 
that he translated the song of '^ Selma,*' and afterwards incorporated 
it in Werther. Besides Shakspeare and Ossian, he also learned, 
through Herder, to appreciate the Vicar of Wakefield ; and the ex- 
quisite picture there painted, he was now to see living in the parson- 
age of Frederika's father. 

Upon the broad and lofty gallery of the Strasburg Cathedral he 
and his companions oft)en met to salute the setting sun with brimming 
goblets of Rhine wine. The calm wide landscape stretched itself for 
miles before them, and they pointed out the several spots which 
memory endeared to each. One spot, above all others, has interest 
for us — Sesenheim, the home of Frederika. Of all the women who 
enjoyed the distinction of Goethe's love, none seem to me so fasci- 
nating as Frederika. Her idyllic presence is familiar to every lover 
of German literature, through the charming episode of the Autobio- 
graphy, over which the poet lingered with peculiar delight. The 
secretary is now living to whom this episode was dictated, and he 


remembers vividly how mncli affected Goethe seemed to be as these 
scenes revisited memory ; walking up and down the room^ with his 
hands behind him^ he often stopped in his walk^ and paused in the 
dictation ; then after a long silence^ followed by a deep sigh, he con- 
tinued the narrative in a lower tone. 

Weyland, a fellow-boarder, had often spoken of a clergyman who 
with his wife and two amiable daughters, lived near Drusenheim, a 
village about sixteen miles from Strasburg. Early in October 1770, 
Weyland proposed to his friend to accompany him on a visit to the 
worthy pastor. It was agreed between them that Weyland should 
introduce him under the guise of a shabby theological student. His 
love of incognito often prompted him to such disguises. In the 
present instance he borrowed some old clothes, and combed his hair 
in such a way that when Weyland saw him he burst out into a fit 
of laughter. They set forth in high glee. At Drusenheim they 
stopped, Weyland to make himself spruce, Goethe to rehearse his 
part. Biding across the meadows to Sesenheim, they left their 
horses at the inn, and walked leisurely towards the parsonage, — an 
old and somewhat dilapidated farm-house, but very picturesque, and 
very still. They found pastor Brion at home, and were welcomed 
by him in a friendly manner. The rest of the family were in the 
fields. Weyland went after them, leaving Goethe to discuss parish 
interests with the pastor, who soon grew confidential. Presently 
the wife appeared; and she was followed by the eldest daughter 
bouncing iuto the room, inquiring after Frederika, and hurrying 
away again to seek her. 

Refreshments were brought, and old acquaintances were talked 
over with Weyland, — Goethe listening. Then the daughter re- 
turned, uneasy at not having found Frederika. This little domestic 
fuss about Frederika prepared the poet for her appearance. At 
length she came in. Both girls wore the national costume, with its 
short, white, full skirt and fiirbelow, not conceaUng the neatest of 
ankles, a tight boddice and black taffeta apron. Frederika's straw 
hat hung on her arm; and the beautiful braids of her fair hair 
drooped on a deUcate white neck. Merry blue eyes, and a piquant 
little iiez retrouasi, completed her attractions. In gazing on this 
bright young creature, then only sixteen, Goethe felt ashamed of his 
disguise. It hurt his amour-propre to appear thus before her like a 
bookish student, shorn of all personal advantages. Meanwhile con- 
versation rattled on between Weyland and his family. Endless was 
the list of uncles, aunts, nieces, cousins, gossips, and guests they 
had something to say about, leaving him completely excluded from 


the conversation. Frederika seeing this^ seated herself by him^ and 
with charming frankness began to talk to him. Music was lying on 
the harpsichord ; she asked him if he played^ and on his modestly- 
qnalified affirmative begged him ''to favour them.'' Her father^ 
however^ suggested that she ought to begin^ by a song. She sat 
down to the harpsichord^ which was somewhat out of tune^ and^ in a 
provincial style^ performed several pieces^ such as then were thought 
enchanting. After this she began to sing. The song was tender 
and melancholy^ but she was apparently not in the mood^ for ac- 
knowledging her failure she rose and said^ '' K I sing badly it is not 
the fault of my harpsichord nor of my teacher : let us go into the 
open air^ and then you shall hear my Alsatian and Swiss songs.'' 
Lito the air they went^ and soon her merry voice carolled forth : 

" I come firom a forest as dark as the night. 
And believe me, I love thee, my only delight. 
Ei ja, ei ja^ ei, ei, ei, ei, ja^ ja« ja V* 

He was already a captive. 

His tendency to see pictures and poetry in the actual scenes of 
life, here made him see realised the Wakefield fanuly. If pastor 
Brion did not accurately represent Mr. Primrose, yet he might stand 
for him ; the elder daughter for OHvia, the younger for Sophia ; and 
when at supper a youth came into the room, Goethe involuntary ex- 
claimed " What, Moses too !" A very merry supper they had; so 
merry that Weyland, fearing lest wine and Frederika should make 
his friend betray himself, proposed a walk in the moonlight. Wey- 
land offered his arm to Salome, the elder daughter (always named 
Olivia in the Autobiography), Frederika took Goethe's arm. Youth 
and moonlight — ^need one say more ? Already he began to scrutinise 
her tone in speaking of cousins and neighbours, jealous lest it should 
betray an affection. But her blithe spirit was as yet untroubled, 
and he listened in delicious silence to her unembarrassed loquacity. 

On retiring for the night the friends had much to talk over. 
Weyland assured him the incognito had not been betrayed ; on the 
contrary, the family had inquired after the young Goethe, of whose 
joviality and eccentricities they had often heard. And now came the 
tremulous question : was Frederika engaged ? No. That was a 
relief ! Had she ever been in love ? No. - Still better ! Thus 
chatting, they sat till deep in the night, as friends chat on such oc- 
casions, with hearts too ftiU and brains too heated for repose. At 
dawn Goethe was awake, impatient to see Frederika with the dew 

• The entire aone is to be found in the BeaenheiitMT LiederJmch and in Viehoff : 
Ooethe ErlSAUert, v3. i, p. 110. 

G 2 


of momirig on her cheek. While dressing he looked at his costume 
in disgust, and tried in vain to remedy it. His hair could be ma- 
naged ; but when his arms were thrust into his threadbare coat, the 
sleeves of which were ludicrously short, he looked pitiable ; Wey- 
land, peeping at him from under the coverlet, giggled. In his despair 
he resolved to ride back to Strasburg, and return in his own costume. 
On the way another plan suggested itself. He exchanged clothes 
with the son of the landlord at the Drusenheim Inn, a youth of his 
own size ; corked his eyebrows, imitated the son's gait and speech, 
and returned to the parsonage the bearer of a cake. This second 
disguise also succeeded, so long as he kept at a distance ^ but Fre- 
derika running up to him and saying, " George, what' do you here ?'' 
he was forced to reveal himself. *' Not George, but one who asks 
forgiveness.'' "You shocking creature I" she exclaimed, ''how 
you frightened me !" The jest was soon explained and forgiven, 
not only by Frederika, but by the family, who laughed heartily 
at it. 

Gaily passed the day ; the two hourly falling deeper and deeper 
in love. Passion does not chronicle by time : moments are hours, 
hours years, when two hearts are rushing into one. It matters little, 
therefore, that the Autobiography speaks of only two days passed 
in this happy circle, whereas a letter of his says distinctly he was 
there '' some days — einige Tag^^ {less than three cannot be under- 
stood by einige) . He was there long enough to fall in love, and to 
captivate the whole family by his gaiety, obligingness, and poetic 
gifts. He had given them a taste of his quality as a romancist, by 
telling the story of The New Melusina (subsequently published in 
the Wanderjahre). He had also interested himself in the pastor's 
plans for the rebuilding of the parsonage, and proposed to take 
away the sketches with him to Strasburg. 

The pain of separation was lightened by the promise of speedy 
reunion. He returned to Strasburg with new life in his heart. He 
had not long before written to a friend that for the first time he 
knew what it was to be happy without his heart being engaged. 
Pleasant people and manifold studies left him no time for feeling. 
*' Enough, my present life is like a sledge journey, splendid and 
sounding, but with just as little for the heart as it has much for 
eyes and ears." Another tone runs through his letters now, to 
judge from the only one which has been recovered.* It is addressed 
to Frederika, dated the 15th October. 

• Sch5ll, Brirfe und Aufatdte, p. 61. The letters in Pfeiffer's book are manifest 


" Dear new friend, — 

'^ I dare to call you so ; for if I can trust the language of eyes, 
then did mine in the first glance read the hope of this new friend- 
ship in yours — and for our hearts I will answer. You, good and 
gentle as I know you, will you not show some favour to one who 
loves you so ? 

" Dear, dear friend, — 

'' That I have something to say to you there can be no question ; 
but it is quite another matter whether I exactly know wherefore I 
now write, and what I may write. Thus much I am conscious of by 
a certain inward unrest : that I would gladly be by your side, and a 
scrap of paper is as true a consolation and as winged a steed for me 
here in noisy Strasburg, as it can be to you in your quiet, if you 
truly feel the separation from your friend. 

'' The circumstances of our journey home you can easily imagine, 
if you marked my pain at parting, and how I longed to remain be- 
hind. Weyland's thoughts went forwards, mine backwards ; so you 
can understand how oar conversation was neither interesting nor 

'^ At the end of the Wanzenau we thought to shorten our route, 
and found ourselves in the midst of a morass. Night came on ; and 
we only needed the storm which threatened to overtake us, to have 
had every reason for being fully convinced of the love and constancy 
of our princesses.* 

''Meanwhile, the scroll which I held constantly in my hand— 
fearful of losing it — ^was a talisman, which charmed away all the 
perils of the journey. And now ?— -oh I dare not utter it— either 
you can guess it, or you will not beHeve it 1 

''At last we arrived, and our first thought, which had been our 
joy on the road, was the project soon to see you again. 

" How deUcious a sensation is the hope of seeing again those we 
love I And we, when our coddled heart is a Uttle sorrowful, at once 
bring it medicine and say : Dear little heart, be quiet, you wiU not 
long be away from her you love ; be quiet, dear Uttle heart ! Mean- 
while we give it a chimera to play with, and then is it good and still 
as a child to whom the mother gives a doll instead of the apple 
which it must not eat. 

" Enough, we are not here, and so you see you were wrong. You 
would not believe that the noisy gaiety of Strasburg would be dis- 
agreeable to me after the sweet country pleasures enjoyed with you. 

* An alloBion doubtless intelligible to the person addressed, but I can make no- 
thing of it. 


Never, Mamsell, did Strasburg seem so empty to me as now. I 
hope, indeed, it will be better when the remembrance of those 
charming hours is a little dimmed — ^when I no longer feel so vividly 
how good, how amiable my firiend is. Yet ought I to forget that, 
or to wish it ? No ; I will rather retain alittle sorrow and write to 
you frequently. 

" And now many, many thanks and many sincere remembrances 
to your dear parents. To your dear sister many hundred .... what 
I «70uld so willingly give you again 1" 

A few days after his return. Herder underwent the operation pre- 
viously alluded to. Goethe was constantly with him; but as he 
carefully concealed all his mystical studies, fearing to have them 
ridiculed, so one may suppose he concealed also tiie new passion 
which deliciously tormented him. In silence he occupied himself 
with Prederika, and carefully sketched plans for the new parsonage. 
He sent her books, and received from her a letter, which of course 
seemed priceless. 

In November he was again at Sesenheim. Night had ah'eady set 
in when he arrived ; his impatience would not suffer him to wait till 
morning, the more so as the landlord assured him the young ladies 
had only just gone home, where "they expected some one". He 
felt jealous of this expected friend ; and he hastened to the parson- 
age. Great was his surprise to find them not surprised; greater 
still to hear Frederika whisper " Did I not say so ?^ Here he is !" 
Her loving heart had prophesied his coming, and had named the 
very day. 

The next day was Sunday, and many guests were expected. 
Early in the morning Frederika proposed a walk with him, leaving 
her mother and sister to look after domestic preparations. Who 
shall describe that walk, wherein the youthful pair abandoned them- 
selves without concealment to all the delightful nothings of com- 
mencing love? They talked over the expected pleasures of the 
day, and arranged how to be always together. She taught him 
several games ; he taught her others ; and underneath these inno- 
cent arrangements, tove serenely smiled. The church beU called 
them from their walk. To church they went, and listened — ^not very 
attentively — to the worthy pastor. Another kind of devotion made 
their hearts devout. He meditated on her charming qualities, and 
as his glance rested on her ruddy lips, he recalled the last time 
woman^s lips had been pressed to his own ; recalled the curse which 
the excited French girl had uttered, a curse which hitherto had 
acted like a spell. 


This superstition not a little troubled him in games of forfeits, 
where kisses always form a large proportion ; and his presence of 
mind was often tried in the attempts to evade them ; the more so as 
many of the guests, suspecting the tender relation between hi'm and 
Prederika, sportively took every occasion to make them kiss. She, 
with natural instinct, aided him in his evasions. The time came, how- 
ever, when, carried away by the excitement of the dance and games, 
he felt the burning pressure of her Ups crush the superstition in a 

" Kiss, a long, long kiss 
Of yonth and beauty gathered into one." 

He returned to Strasburg, if not a formally betrothed, yet an ac- 
cepted lover. As such the family and friends seem to have regarded 
him. Probably no betrothal took place, on account of his youth, 
and the necessity of obtaining his father's consent. His muse, lately 
silent, now found voice again, and several of the poems Frederika 
inspired are to be read in his published works.* 

He had been sent to Strasburg to gain a doctor's degree. His 
Dissertation had been commenced just before this Sesenheim episode. 
But Shakspeare, Ossian, Fcmst, Ootz, and, above all, Frederika, scat- 
tered his plans, and he followed the advice of friends to choose, in- 
stead of a Dissertation, a number of Theses, upon which to hold a 
disputation. His father would not hear of such a thing, but de- 
manded a regular Dissertation. He chose, therefore, this theme, 
'' That it 18 (he duty of every law-7naJcer to estdblish a certain religious 
worship binding upon clergy <md laity." A theme he supported by 
historical and philosophical arguments. The Dissertation was written 
in Latin, and sent to his father, who received it with pleasure. But 
the dean of the faculty would not receive it — either because its con- 
tents were paradoxical, or because it was not sufficiently erudite. In 
Ueu thereof he was permitted to choose Theses for disputation. 
The Disputation was held on the 6th of August 1771, his opponent 
being Franz Lerse, who pressed him hard. A jovial schmaus, a 
real students' banquet, crowned this promotion of Dr. Goethe.f 

He could find no time for visits to Sesenheim during this active 
preparation for his doctorate ; but he was not entirely separated from 
Frederika : her mother had come with both daughters to Strasburg, 
on a visit to a rich relative. He had been for some time acquainted 

* The whole have been reprinted in the SewnheyrMT lAtderbvLch ; andin Yiehofv's 
QoHhe ErlaiQiert. 

t There is some obBcaiity on this point. From a letter to Salzmaiin, it seems he 
only got a licentiate degree at this time. The dootorate he certainly had; but 
when his diploma was prepared is not known. 


with this family^ and had many opportnnities of meeting his beloved. 
The girls^ who came in their Alsatian costmnej found their cousins 
and friends dressed like Frenchwomen ; a contrast which greatly 
vexed Olivia^ who felt ^^ like a maidservant'^ among these fashionable 
friends. Her restless manners evidently made Groethe somewhat 
ashamed of her. Frederika^ on the other hand^ though equally out 
of her element in this society, was more self-possessed, and perfectly 
contented so long as he was by her side. There is in the Autobio^ 
graphy a significant phrase : this visit of the family is called a '' pecu- 
liar test of his love." And test it was, as every one must see who 
considers the relations in which the lovers stood. He was the son 
of an important Frankfurt citizen, and held almost the position of a 
nobleman in relation to the poor pastor's daughter. Indeed, the 
social disparity was so great, that many explain his not marrying 
Frederika on the ground of such a match being impossible, — "his 
father,'' it is said, " would not have listened to such a thing for a 
moment." Love in nowise troubles itself about station, never asks 
" what will the world say ?" but there is quite a different soUcitude 
felt by Love when approaching Marriage. In the first eagerness of 
passion, a prince may blindly pursue a peasant ; but when his love is 
gratified by return, when reflection reasserts its duties, then the 
prince will consider what in other minds will be the estimation of 
his mistress. Men are very sensitive to the opinions of others on 
their mistresses and wives ; and Qoethe's love must indeed have been 
put to the test, at seeing Frederika and her sister thus in glaring 
contrast with the society in which he moved. In the groves of 
Sesenheim she was a wood-nymph ; but in Strasburg salons the wood- 
nymph seemed a peasant. Who is there that has not experienced a 
similar destruction of illusion, in seeing an admired person lose 
almost all charm in the change of environment ? 

Frederika laid her sweet commands on him one evening, and bade 
him entertain the company by reading Hamlet aloud. He did so, to 
the great enjoyment of all, especially Frederika, '' who from time to 
time sighed deeply, and a passing colour tinged her cheeks." Was 
she thinking of poor Ophelia — ^placing herself in that forlorn posi- 
tion ? 

" For Hamlet and the tirifling of his favour. 
Hold it a &8liioii and a toy in blood \" 

She may have had some presentiment of her fate. The applause, 
however, which her lover gained was proudly accepted by her, " and 
in her graceful manner she did not deny herself the little pride of 
having shone through him." 


It 18 quite certain tliat liis passion gave him vague uneasiness. 
" How happy is he/' he writes, " whose heart is light tfnd free ! 
Courage urges us to confront difficulties and dangers, and only by 
great labour are great joys obtained. That, perhaps, is the worst I 
have to allege against love. They say it gives courage : never ! The 
heart that loves is weak. When it beats wildly in the bosom, and 
tears fill our eyes, and we sit in an inconceivable rapture as they 
flow — ^then, oh 1 then, we are so weak, that flower-chains bind us, 
not because they have the strength of any magic, but because we 
tremble lest we break them.'* 

The mention of Hamlet leads us naturally into the society where 
he sought oblivion, when Frederika quitted Strasburg. Her depar- 
ture, he confesses, was a relief to him. She herself felt on leaving 
that the end of their romance was approaching. He plunged into 
gaiety to drown tormenting thoughts. " K you could but see me," 
he wrote to Salzmann, after describing a dance which had made hiTn 
forget his fever : " my whole being was sunk in dancing. And yet 
could I but say : I am happy ; that would be better than all. ' Who 
is't can say I am at the worst V says Edgar (in Lsar) . That is some 
comfort, dear friend. My heart is like a weathercock when a storm 
is rising, and the gusts are changeable." Some days later he wrote : 
*' All is not clear in my soul. I am too curiously awake not to feel 
that I grasp at shadows. And yet .... To-morrow at seven my 
horse is saddled, and then adieu 1" 

Besides striving to drown in gaiety these tormenting thoughts, he 
also strove to divert them into channels of nobler activity ; stimu- 
lated thereto by the Shakspearian fanaticism of his new friend Lenz. 

Beinhold Lenz, irrevocably forgotten as a poet, whom a vain 
effort on the part of Ghiippe has tried to bring once more into 
public favour,* is not without interest to the student of German 
Hterature during the Sturm und Drang period. He came to Stras- 
burg in 1770, accompanying two young noblemen as their tutor, and 
minghng with them in the best society of the place ; and, by means 
of Salzmann, was introduced to the Club. Although he had com- 
menced by translating Pope's Essay on Criticism, he was, in the 
strictest sense of the word, one of the Shakspeare bigots, who held 
to the severest orthodoxy in Shakspeare as a first article of their 
creed, and who not only maintained the Shakspeare clowns to be in- 
comparable> but strove to imitate them in their language. Many an 
extravagant jest, and many an earnest discussion served to vary the 
hours. It is not easy for us to imagine the effect which the revela- 
* Obuppi : Bginhold Lenz Leben und Werke : 1861. 



tion of Buch a mind as Shakspeare's must have produced on the 
young Germans. His cSossfiJ strength, profundity of thought, 
originality and audacity of language, his beauty, pathos, sublimity^ 
wit, and wild overflowing humour, and his accuracy of observa- 
tion as well as depth of insight into the mysteries of passion 
and character, were qualities which no false criticism, and, above 
all, no national taste, prevented Germans fix)m appreciating. It 
was very different in France. There an established form of art, 
with which national pride was identified, and an established set of 
critical rules, upon which Taste securely rested, necessarily made 
Shakspeare appear like a Cyclops of Genius — a monster, though of 
superhuman proportions. Frenchmen could not help being shocked 
at many things in Shakspeare ; yet even those who were most out- 
raged, were also most amazed at the pearls to be found upon the 
dung-hill. In Germany the pearls alone were seen. French taste 
had been pitilessly ridiculed by Lessing. The French Tragedy 
had been contrasted with Shakspeare, and pronoxmced unworthy of 
comparison. To the Germans, therefore, Shakspeare was a standard 
borne by all who combated against France, and his greatness was 
recognised with something of wilful preference. The state of Ger- 
man literature also rendered his influence the more prodigious. Had 
Shakspeare been first revealed to u% when Mr. Hayley was the great 
laureat of the age, we should have felt something of the eagerness 
with which the young and ardent minds of Germany received this 
greatest poet of all ages. 

I am fortunately enabled, thanks to Otto Jahn, to give here a veiy 
interesting illustration of the enthusiasm with which these young 
men studied Shakspeare ; and among the new materials this Bio- 
graphy contains, perhaps nothing will be so welcome in England. It 
is an oration prepared by Goethe for one of the meetings of the 
Shakspeare-circle before mentioned. To hear the youth of one-and- 
twenty thus eloquent on his great idol, lets us intimately into the 
secret of his mental condition. 


" In my opinion, the noblest of our sentiments is the hope of con* 
tinning to live, even when destiny seems to have carried us back 
into the common lot of non-existence. This hfe, gentlemen, is much 
too short for our souls ; the proof is, that every man, the lowest as 
well as the highest, the most incapable as well as the most merito- 
rious, will be tired of anything sooner than of life, and that no one 
reaches the goal towards which he set out ; for however long a man 


may be prosperous in his career^ still at last^ and often when in sight 
of the hoped-for object, he falls into a grave, which God knows who 
dag for him, and is reckoned as nothing. Beckoned as nothing f 
I ? who am everything to myself, since I know things only through 
myseff ! So cries every one who is truly conscious of himself; and 
makes great strides through this life — a preparation for the unending 
course above. Each, it is true, according to his measure. If one 
sets out with the sturdiest walking pace, the other wears seven- 
leagued boots and outstrips him ; two steps of the latter are equal 
to a day's journey of the former. Be it as it may with him of the 
seven-leagued boots, this diligent traveller remains our friend and 
our companion, while we are amazed at the gigantic steps of the 
other and admire them, follow his footsteps and measure them with 
our own. 

" Let us up and be going, gentlemen I To watch a solitary march 
like this enlarges and animates our souls more than to stare at the 
thousand footsteps of a royal procession. To-day we honour the 
memory of the greatest traveller on this journey of life, and thereby 
we are doing an honour to ourselves. Whenjwe know how to appre- 
ciate a m erit we have the germ of it within ourselves. Do not expect 
t^!t I should say much or methodically ; mental calmness is no gar- 
ment for a festival ; and as yet I have thought Uttle upon Shak- 
speare ; to have glimpses, and, in exalted passages, to feel, is the 
utmost I have been able to obtain. The first page of his that I read 
made me his for life ; and when I had finished a single play, I stood 
like one bom blind, on whom a miraculous hand bestows sight in a 
moment. I saw, I felt, in the most vivid manner, that my existence 
was infinitely expanded, eveiything was now unknown to me, and 
the unwonted light pained my eyes. By little and Uttle I learned to 
see, and, thanks to my receptive genius, I continue vividly to feel 
what I have won. I did not hesitate for a moment about renouncing 
the classical drama. The unity of place seemed to me irksome as a 
prison, the unities of action and of time burthensome fetters to our 
imagination ; I sprang into the open air, and felt for the first time 
that I had hands and feet. And now that I see how much injury 
the men of rule did me in their dungeon, and how many free souls 
still crouch there, my heart would burst if I did not declare war 
against them, and did not seek daily, to batter down their towers. 
^ " The Grreek drama, which the French took as their model, was both 
in its inward and outward character such, that it would be easier for 
a marquis to imitate Alcibiades than for Comeille to follow Sophocles. 
At first an intermezzo of divine worship, then a mode of political 



celebration^ tlie tragedy presented to tlie people great isolated 
actions of their fathers with the pure simplicity of perfection ; it 
stirred thorough and great emotions in souls because it was itself 
thorough and great. And in what souls ? Greek souls I I cannot 
explain to myself what that expresses^ but I feel it, and app<M for 
the sake of brevity to Homer and Sophocles, and Theocritus ; they 
have taught me to feel it. 

" Now hereupon I immediately ask : Frenchman, what wilt thou 
do with the Greek armour ? it is too strong and too heavy for thee. 

'^ Hence, also, French tragedies are parodies of themselves. How 
regularly everything goes forward, and how they are as like each 
other as shoes, and tiresome withal, especially in the fourth act, — 
all this, gentlemen, you know from experience, and I say nothing 
about it. 

" Who it was that first thought of bringing great poHtical actions 
on the stage I know not ; this is a subject which affords an oppor- 
tunity to the amateur for a critical treatise. I doubt whether the 
honour of the invention belongs to Shakspeare ; it is enough that he 
brought this species of drama to the pitch which still remains the 
highest, for few eyes can reach it, and thus it is scarcely to be hoped 
that any one will see beyond it or ascend above it. Shakspeare, my 
friend I if thou wert yet amongst us, I could live nowhere but with 
thee j how gladly would I play the subordinate character of a 
Pylades, if thou wert Orestes ; yes, rather than be a venerated high- 
priest in the temple of Delphos. 

'' I will break off, gentlemen, and write more to-morrow, for I am 
in a strain which, perhaps, is not so edifying to you as it is heartfelt 
by me. 

'' Shakspeare's dramas are a beautiful casket of rarities, in which 
the history of the world passes before our eyes on the invisible thread 
of time. His plots, to speak according to the ordinary style, are no 
plots, for his plays all turn upon the hidden point (which no phi- 
losopher has yet seen and defined), in which the peculiarity of our 
ego, the pretended freedom of our will, clashes with the necessary 
course of the whole. But our corrupt taste so beclouds our eyes, 
that we almost need a new creation to extricate us from this dark- 

"All French writers, and Germans infected with French taste, 
even Wieland, have in this matter, as in several others, done them- 
selves little credit. Voltaire, who from the first made a profession of 
vilifying everything majestic, has here also shewn himself a genuine 
Thersites. If I were Ulysses, his back should writhe under my 


ficeptre. Most of these critics object especially to Shakspeare^s cha- 
racters. And I cry^ nature^ nature I nothing so natural as Shak- 
speare's men. 

'' There I have them all by the neck. Give me air that I may 
speak ! He rivalled Prometheus^ and formed his men feature by 
feature^ only of colossal size ; therein lies the reason that we do not 
recognise our brethren ; and then he animated them with the breath 
of his mind ; he speaks in all of them^ and we perceive their rela- 

'' And how shall our age form a judgment as to what is natural ? 
Whence can we be supposed to know nature^ we who, from youth 
upwards, feel everything within us, and see everything in others, 
laced up and decorated ? I am often ashamed before Shakspeare, 
for it often happens that at the first glance I think to myself I 
should have done that differently ; but soon I perceive that I am a 
poor sinner, that nature prophecies through Shakspeare, and that 
my men are soap-bubbles blown from romantic fancies. 

" And now to conclude, — ^though I have not yet begun. What 
noble philosophers have said of the world, applies also to Shakspeare ; 
— ^namely, that what we call evil is only the other side, and belongs 
as necessarily to its existence and to the Whole, as the torrid zone 
must bum and Lapland freeze, in order that there may be a tem- 
perate region. He leads us through the whole world, but we, 
enervated, inexperienced men, cry at every strange grasshopper that 
meets us : He will devour us. 

^'Up, gentlemen ! sound the alarm to all noble souls who are in 
the elysium of so-called good taste, where drowsy in tedious twilight 
they are half alive, half not alive, with passions in their hearts and 
no marrow in their bones ; and because they are not tired enough to 
sleep, and yet are too idle to be active, loiter and yawn away their 
shadowy life between myrtle and laurel bushes.^' 

In these accents we hear the voice of the youth who wrote Ootz 
with the Iron Hand. If the reader turn to the Autobiography and 
see there what is said of Shakspeare, he will be able to*appreciate 
what I meant in saying that the tone of the Autobiography is unlike 
the reality. The tone of this speech is that of the famous Sturm und 
Drang (storm and stress) period, which in after life became so very 
objectionable to him. How differently Schiller was affected by 
Shakspeare may be read in the following confession : — " When at an 
early age I first grew acquainted with this poet, I was indignant at 
his coldness — ^indignant with the insensibility which allowed him to 
jest and sport amidst the highest pathos. Led by my knowledge of 


more modem poets to seek the poet in his works ; to meet and sym- 
pathize with his heart ; to reflect with him over his object ; it was 
insufferable to me that this poet gave me nothing of himself. Many 
years had he my reverence— certainly my earnest study, before I 
could comprehend his individuality. I was not yet fit to comprehend 
nature at first hand.'' 

The enthusiasm for Shakspeare naturally incited Goethe to dra- 
matic composition, and> besides Ootz and Fcmst before mentioned, 
we find in his Note-book the commencement of a drama on Juliua 

Three forms rise up from out the many influences of Strasburg 
into distinct and memorable importance: Frederika; Herder; the 
Cathedral. An exquisite woman, a noble thinker, and a splendid 
monument, were his guides into the regions of Passion, Poetry, and 
Art. The influence of the Cathedral was great enough to make him 
write the little tractate on German architecture D. M, Erwini d 
Steinbach; the enthusiasm of which was so incomprehensible to 
h\m in after years, that he was with diflBiculty persuaded to reprint 
the tractate among his works. Do we not see here — as in so many 
other traits — ^how different the youth is from the child and man ? 

How thoroughly he had entered into the spirit of Gothic archi- 
tecture is indicated by the following anecdote. In company with 
some friends he was admiring the Strasburg Cathedral, when one 
remarked, '^ What a pity it was not finished, and that there should 
be only one steeple.'' Upon this he answered, " It is a matter of 
equal regret to me to see this solitary steeple unfinished ; the four 
spiral staircases leave off too abruptly at the top ; they ought to have 
been surmounted by four light pinnacles, with a higher one rising 
in the centre instead of the clumsy mass." Some one, turning round 
to him, asked him who told him that ? '' The tower itself," he an- 
swered; ''I have studied it so long, so attentively, and with so 
much love, that it has at last confessed to me its open secret." 
Whereupon his questioner informed him that the tower had spoken 
truly, and offered to show him the original sketches, which still 
existed among the archives. 

Inasmuch as in England many professed admirers of architecture 
appear imperfectly acquainted with the revival of the taste for Gothic 
art, it may not be superfluous to call attention to the fact that 
Goethe was among the very first to recognise the peculiar beauty 
of that style, at a period when classical, or pseudo-classical, taste 
was everywhere dominant. It appears that he was in friendly 
correspondence with Sulpiz Boisseree, the artist who made the 



restored design of the Cologne Cathedral ; from whom he doubt- 
less learned much. And we see by the Wahlverwaridtschaften that 
he had a portfolio of designs illustrative of the principle of the 
pointed style. This was in 1809, when scarcely any one thought of 
the Gothic ; long before Victor Hugo had written his Notre Darns 
de Paris ; long before Pugin and Ruskin had thrown their impas- 
sioned energy into this revival ; at a time when the church iji Lang- 
ham Place was thought beautiful, and the Temple Church was con- 
sidered an eyesore. 

And now he was to leave. Strasburg, — to leave Frederika. Much 
as her presence had troubled him of late, in her absence he only 
thought of her fascinations. He had not ceased to love her, though 
he already felt she never would be his. He went to say adieu. 
" Those were painful days, of which I remember nothing. When I 
held out my hand to her from my horse, the tears were in her eyes, 
and I felt sad at heart. As I rode along the footpath to Drusenheim 
a strange phantasy took hold of me. I saw in my mind^s eye my 
own figure riding towards me, attired in a dress I had never worn — 
pike grey with gold lace. I shook off this phantasy, but eight years 
afterwards I found myself on the very road, going to visit Frederika, 
and that too in the very dress which I had seen myself in, in this 
phantasm, although my wearing it was quite accidental.^^ The 
reader will probably be somewhat sceptical respecting the dress, and 
will suppose that this prophetic detail was afterwards transferred to 
the vision by the imagination of later years.* 

And so farewell Frederika, bright and exquisite vision of a poet^s 

youth ! We love you, pity you, and think how differently we should 

have treated you ! We make pilgrimages to Sesenheim as to Vau- 

cluse, and write legibly our names in the Visitors' Album, to testify 

80 much. And we read, not without emotion, narratives such as 

that of the worthy philologist Nake, who in 1822 made the first pil- 

grinw^gG^t thinking, as he went, of this enchanting Frederika (and 

somewhat also of a private Frederika of his own), examined every 

rood of the ground, dined meditatively at the inn (with a passing 

reflection that the bill was larger than he anticipated), took coffee 

with the pastor's successor; and, with a sentiment touching in a 

philologist, bore away a sprig of the jessamine which in days gone 

by had been tended by the white hands of Frederika, and placed it 

in his pocket-book as an imperishable souvenir. 

^ The oorreepondence with the Fran von Stein contains a letter written by him 
a day or two after this visit, but, singolarly enough, no mention of this coincidence, 
t Die Wah\fakrt ncush Besenheim, 


1771 to 1775. 

" Es bildet ein Talent sich in der Stille, 
Sicli ein Chorakter in dem Strom der Welt." 

' Tronken mflBsen wir aile eeyn : 
Jugend ist Tninkenlxeit ohne Wein." 

' They say best men are moulded out of foults^ 
And, for the most, become much more the better 
For being a little bad." — Shdkapeare. 



On the 25th or 28th of August 1771, ho quitted Strasburg. His 
way led through Mannheim ; and there he was first thrilled by the 
beauty of ancient masterpieces, some of which he saw in plaster 
cast. Whatever might be his predilection for Gothic Art, he could 
not view these casts without feehng himself in presence of an Art in 
its way also divine ; and his previous study of Lessing lent a peculiar 
interest to the Laokoon group, now before his eyes. 

Passing on to Mainz he fell in with a young wandering harpist, 
and invited the ragged minstrel to Frankfurt, promising him a public in 
the Fair, and a lodging in his father's house. It was lucky that he 
thought of acquainting his mother with this invitation. Alarmed at 
its imprudence, she secured a lodging in the town, and so the boy 
wanted neither shelter nor patronage. 

Rath Goethe was not a little proud of the young Doctor. He was 
also not a little disturbed by the young Doctor's manners ; and often 
shook his ancient respectable head at the opinions which exploded 
like bombshells in the midst of conventions. Doctoral gravity was 
but slightly attended to by this young hero of the Sturm und Drang. 
The revolutionary movement known by the title of the Storm and 


Stress was then about to astonish Germany^ and to startle all con- 
ventions, by works such as Gerstenberg's Ugolino, Goethe's Ootz von 
Berlichingen, and Elinger's Sturm und Drang (from whence the 
name). The wisdom and extravagance of that age united in one 
stream : the masterly criticisms of Lessing, — the enthusiasm, for 
Shakspeare, — ^the mania for Ossian and the northern mythology, — 
the revival of ballad literature, — and imitations of Eousseau, all 
worked in one rebellious current against established authority. There 
was one universal shout for Nature. With the young. Nature seemed 
to be a compound of volcanoes and moonlight ; her force explosion, 
her beauty sentiment. To be insurgent and sentimental, explosive, 
and lachrymose, were the true signs of genius. Everything es- 
tablished was humdrum. Genius, abhorrent of humdrum, would 
neither spell correctly, nor write correctly, nor demean itself cor- 
rectly. It would be Oermcm — flawless, rude, and natural. Lawless 
it was, and rude it was, but not natural, according to the nature of 
any reputable type. 

It is not easy, in the pages of the Autobiography, to detect in 
Goethe an early leader of the Sturm und Dram^ ; but it is easy 
enough to detect this in other sources. Here is a glimpse, in a letter 
from Mayer of Lindau (one of the Strasburg set) to Salzmann, worth 
chapters of the autobiography on such a point. '^ Oorydon, Cory' 
don qUfCe te dementia cepit ! According to the chain in which our 
ideas are linked together, Corydon and dem^entia put me in mind of 
the extravagant Goethe. He is still at Frankfurt, is he not V^ 

That such a youth, whose wildness made friends nickname him 
the " bear*' and the '' wolf,'' could have been wholly pleasing to his 
steady, formal father, is not to be expected. Yet the worthy sire was 
not a little proud of his son's attainments. The verses, essays, notes, 
and drawings which had accumulated during the residence in Stras- 
burg were very gratifying to him. He began to arrange them with 
scrupulous neatness, hoping to see them shortly published. But the 
poet had a virtue, perhaps of all virtues the rarest in youthful 
writers, — a reluctance to appear in print. Seeing, as we daily see, 
the feverish alacrity with which men accede to that extremely imagin- 
ary request, '' request of friends," and dauntlessly rush into print, — 
seeing the obstinacy with which they cling to all they have written, 
and insist on what they have written being printed — Goethe's reluc- 
tance demands an explanation. And, if I may interpret according 
to my own experience, the explanation is, that his delight in compo- 
sition was rather the pure delight of intellectual activity, than a de- 
light in the result : delight, not in the work, but in the workmg. Thus, 


no sooner had he finished a poem than his interest in it began to fade; 
and he passed on to another. Thus it was that he left so many works 
fragments^ his interest having been exhausted before the whole was 

He had a small circle of literary friends to whom he communicated 
his productions^ and this was publication enough for him. We shall 
see him hereafter, in Weimar, writing solely for a circle of fiiends, 
and troubUng himself scarcely at all about a pubUc. It was neces- 
sary for him to occupy himself with some work which should absorb 
him, as Ootz did at this time, for only in work could he forget the 
pain, almost remorse, which followed his renunciation of Frede- 
rika. If at Strasburg he had felt that an end was approaching to 
this sweet romance, at Frankfurt, among family connections, and 
with new prospects widening before him, he felt it still more. He 
wrote to her. Unhappily that letter is not preserved. It would 
have made clear much that is now conjectural. '' Frederika^s 
answer,'^ he says, '^ to the letter in which I had bidden her adieu, 
tore my heart. I now, for the first time, became aware of her be- 
reavement, and saw no possibility of alleviating it. She was ever in 
my thoughts ; I felt that she was wanting to me ; and, worst of all, 
I could not forgive myself ! Gretchen had been taken from me ; • 
Annchen had left me ; but now, for the first time, I was guilty ; I 
had wounded, to its very depths, one of the most beautiful and ten- 
der of hearts. And that period of gloomy repentance, bereft of the 
love which had so invigorated me, was agonising, insupportable. 
But man will live ; and hence I took a sincere interest in others, 
seeking to disentangle their embarrassments, and to unite those about 
to part, that they might not feel what I felt. Hence I got the name 
of the ' Confidant,' and also, on account of my wanderings, I was 
named the ' Wanderer.' Under the broad open sky, on the heights 
or in the valleys, in the fields and through the woods, my mind re- 
gained some of its calmness. I almost lived on the road, wandering 
between the mountains and the plains. Often I went, alone or in 
company, right through my native city as though I were a stranger 
in it, dining at one of the great inns in the High Street, and after 
dinner pursuing my way. I turned more than ever to the open 
world and to Nature ; there alone I found comfort. During my walks 
I sang to myself strange hjrmns and dithyrambs. One of these, the 
Wanderer' 8 Sturmlied, still remains. I remember singing it aloud in 
an impassioned style amid a terrific storm. The burden of this 
rhapsody is that a man of genius must walk resolutely through tte 
storms of life, relying solely on himself;" a burden which seems to 

1771.] DR. QOETHE'S RETURN. 99 

give expression to what he then felt respecting his relation to Frede- 

Although we have no exact knowledge of the circumstances, from 
the height of which to judge his conduct, the question must be put. 
Why did he not marry Frederika ? It is a question often raised, and 
as often sophistically answered. By one party he is angrily con- 
demned; disingenuously absolved by another. But he himself acknow- 
ledged his fault. He himself never put forth any excuse. He does 
not hint at disparity of station, he does not say there were objec- 
tions from his parents. He makes no excuse, but confesses the 
wrong, and blames himself without sophistication. Yet the excuses 
he would not suggest, partisans have been eager to suggest for him. 
Some have sought far and wide in the gutters of scandal for mate- 
rials of defence. One gets up a story about Frederika being seduced 
by a Catholic priest ; whence it is argued that Groethe could not be 
expected to marry one so frail ; whence also it follows, by way of 
counterblast, that it was his desertion which caused her fall.* The 
basis of fact on which this lie is reared (there is usually some basis, 
even for the wildest lies), is that Frederika brought up the orphan 
child of her sister Salome. 

Let me endeavour, without sophistication, to state the real case, at 
least as far as the imperfect evidence admits of a judgment. It 
seems always to have been forgotten by the many writers who have dis- 
cussed this topic, that our judgment is misled by the artistic charm 
which he has thrown over the nan^ative : we fail to separate the 
Fact from the Fiction ; we read the poem he has made up from his 
early experience, and read it as if the poem were an unvarnished 
record of that experience. He has painted Frederika so charmingly ; 
he has told the story of their simple youthful love with so much 
grace, and quiet emotion ; he has made us beheve so entirely in the 
Idyl, that our sympathies are rudely disturbed when we find the Idyl 
is not to end in a marriage. 

But if we consider the case calmly, divesting it, as much as possi- 
ble, of the illusive suggestions of romance, we may, perhaps, come 
to the conclusion, that it was, after all, only a " love-affair*^ between 
a boy and a girl, a temporary fascination, such as often stirs the 
affections of youth, without deepening into serious thought of mar- 
riage. Doubtless the reader can from his or her own history rapidly 
recall such an experience; certainly the experience of their friends will 
supply such cases. If we read the story in this light all is clear. 

• Strangely enough, although Goethe read the MS. in which Nake repeat^ thin 
story, he takes no notice of it. 



The boy and girl are fascinated by each other ; they look into each 
other^fl eyes, and are happy ; they walk together, talk together, and, 
when separated, think of each other. But they never think of mar- 
riage ; or think of it vaguely as a remote contingency. Young 
love's dream is enough for them. They are pained at parting ; per- 
haps all the more so, because they dimly feel that the awakening is 
at hand. But there is a sort of tacit understanding that marriage is 
not the issue to be looked for. Had any one hinted to either Goethe 
or Frederika that their passion was but a '' youthful stirring of the 
blood," and not an eternal union of souls, they would assuredly have 
resented it with emphatic denial. Yet so it was. Goethe soon con- 
soled himself; and there is positive evidence that Frederika, shortly 
afterwards, allowed herself to be consoled by Lenz. 

Such, after mature deliberation, I beUeve to have been the real 
story. When in old age Goethe, reviewing the pleasant dreams of 
youth, and weaving them into an artistic narrative, avowedly half 
fiction, came to that episode with Frederika, he thought of it as we 
all think of our early loves, with a mingled tenderness and pain ; his 
imagination was kindled, and he turned his experience into a poem. 
But the fact thus idealized was a very ordinary fact ; the story thus 
poetised was a very common stoiy, and could be told by ninety out 
of every hundred students, who do not marry the idol of the last uni- 
versity term. That Goethe, with his affectionate sensitive nature, 
was for a time in love with Frederika, is possible. It is certain that 
whatever the agitation of his feelings, they were not deeply moved ; 
she had laid no firm hold of his soul ; there were none of those ties 
between them which grow stronger with advancing time. 

No sooner had he made this decisively clear to himself, than he 
wrote to Frederika to tell her so. No woman can be given up with- 
out feeling pain, and probably Frederika's afiections were far more 
deeply engaged than his were ; nevertheless, in spite of the pain she 
doubtless felt, and pathetically expressed in her letter to him, we find 
her presently engaged in another '' love-afiair'', with the poet Lenz, 
which, though it ended in a breach, certainly went so far as the ex- 
change of vows ; and, according to Lenz, the growth of the passion 
was rapid. '^ It was with us both,'' he writes to his friend, '' as with 
Caesar : veni, vidi, vici. Through unconscious causes grew our con- 
fidence — and now it is sworn, and indissoluble." When, in after 
years, Goethe visited Frederika, she — having long given up Lenz, — 
whose madness must have made her rejoice in her escape — told him of 
Lenz having pretended to be in love with her, but omitted to say 
anything about her own reciprocity ; and she omitted this from mo- 


1771.] DR, OOETHE'S RETURN. 101 

tives which every woman will appreciate. But however obscure the 
stoiy may be, it seems certain that at least for a short time she be- 
lieved in and returned Lenz's passion.* 

After this exposition of what I conceive to be the real case, it will 
be easy to answer the outcry of the sentimentalists against Goethe's 
'^ faithlessness^' and his " cruel treatment of Frederika/' without re- 
curring to the excuses sometimes put forth, that to have been faith- 
ful to her he must have been faithless to his genius ; and that it was 
better one woman's heart should be broken (which it was not) than 
that the poet's experience should be narrowed within the small circle 
of domestic life. It is a mistake to speak of faithlessness at all. 
We may regret that he did not feel the serious aflTection which would 
have claimed her as a wife ; we may upbraid him for the thoughtless- 
ness with which he encouraged the sentimental relation ; but he was 
perfectly right to draw back from an engagement which he felt his 
love was not strong enough properly to fulfil. It seems to me that he 
acted a more moral part in relinquishing her, than if he had swamped 
this lesser in a greater wrong, and escaped one breach of faith by 
a stiU greater breach of faith — a reluctant, because unloving, mar- 
riage. The thoughtlessness of youth, and the headlong impetus of 
passion, frequently throw people into rash engagements ; and in these 
cases the formal moraUty of the world, more careful of externals 
than of truth, declares it to be nobler for such rash engagements to 
be kept, even when the rashness is felt by the engaged, than that a 
man's honour should be stained by a withdrawal. The letter thus 
takes precedence of the spirit. To satisfy this prejudice a life is 
sacrificed. A miserable marriage rescues the honour ; and no one 
tiirows the burden of that misery upon the prejudice. I am not for- 
getting the necessity of being stringent against the common thought- 
lessness of youth in forming such relations ; but I say that this 
thoughtlessness once having occurred, reprobate it as we may, the 
pain which a separation may bring had better be endured, than 
evaded by an unholy marriage, which cannot come to good. 

Frederika herself must have fdt so too, for never did a word of 
blame escape her ; and we shall see how affectionately she welcomed 
him, when they met after the lapse of years. This, however, does 
not absolve him from the blame of having thoughtlessly incurred the 
responsibility of her affection. That blame he must bear. The 
reader will apportion it according as he estimates the excuses of 
temperament, and the common thoughtlessness of us all in such 

• For ftdl detailB see Gbuppb : Remhold Lem, Lehen und Werke, 1861, pp. 11, sq. 


Althongh I think Goethe's condact in this matter perfectly up- 
right, and justifiable from a far more serious point of view than that 
of being faithful to his genius, I am not at all disposed to acquiesce 
in the assumption that marriage with Frederika would have crippled 
his genius by narrowing his sympathies. The cause of his relinquish- 
ing her was the want of a sufficiently powerful love ; and that also is 
his justification. Had he loved her enough to share a life with her, 
his experience of woman might have been less extensive, but it 
would assuredly have gained an element it wanted. It would have 
been deepened. He had experienced, and he could paint (no one 
better), the exquisite devotion of woman to man ; but he had scarcely 
ever felt the peculiar tenderness of man for woman, when that 
tenderness takes the form of vigilant protecting fondness. He knew 
little, and that not until late in life, of the subtle interweaving of 
habit with affection, which makes life saturated with love, and love 
itself become dignified through the serious aims of life. He knew 
little of the exquisite companionship of two souls striving in emulous 
spirit of loving rivalry to become better, to become wiser, teaching 
each other to soar. He knew little of this ; and the kiss he feared to 
press upon the loving lips of Frederika — the life of sympathy he 
refused to share with her — are wanting to the greatness of his works. 

In such a mood as that which followed the rupture with Frederika, 
it is not wonderful if Frankfurt and the practice of law were odious 
to him. Nothing but hard work could do him good : and he worked 
hard. From the Herder Correspondence it appears that he read 
Greek writers with some eagerness, his letters being studded 
with citations from Plato, Homer, and Pindar. Die griechen aind 
mein einzig studium, he says. We find him also working at 
Gotz von Berlichingen, Gothic Art, a kindred subject, occupies him, 
and from thence, by an easy transition, he passes to the Bible, to 
study it anew. The results of this study are seen in two little 
tractates published in 1773, one called Brief des Pastor^ s zu*** an 
den neiien Pastor zu*** ; the other, Zwo wichtige bisher unerortete 
hiblisclw Fragen, zum erstenmal grilndlich heantwortet von einem 
LandgeistUclien in Schwaben. The influence of Fraulein von Klet- 
tenberg is traceable in the religious sentiment of these works ; while 
his own affectionate nature speaks in the tolerance preached. Of 
the two biblical questions, one goes to prove that it was not the ten 
commandments which stood on the tables of Moses, but ten laws of 
the Israelitish-Jehovah covenant. The second is an answer, by no 
means clear, to the question : " What is it to speak with tongues V 
which he explains as a '' speech of the Spirit, more than pantomime, 
and yet inarticulate." 

1771.] DR. OOETHE'S RETURN, 103 

Among the friends to whom he communicated his plans and ideas^ 
two must be named : Schlosser^ whom we have seen at Leipsic^ and 
Merck, whose influence was very beneficial. The portrait sketched 
of this remarkable man in the Autobiography gives a very incorrect 
idea to those who cannot control what is there said by other direct 
evidence ; especially calculated to mislead is the nickname '' Mephis- 
topheles Merck/' for whatever tendency to sarcasm Merck may have 
indulged in, it is quite clear that his admiration was generous and 
warm, his influence over Goethe being uniformly one of friendly 
incitement, or of friendly wamingft 

Johann Heinrich Merck was bom in Darmstadt, 1741. The son 
of an apothecary, he raised himself to the companionship of princes. 
He was at this time Kriegsrath in Darmstadt, and in correspondence 
with most of the notabilities of the day ; among them Herder, who 
had the highest opinion of his abilities, and the most jealous anxiety 
to retain his friendship, fearing lest the new friendship with Goethe 
should step between them ; as, indeed, eventually it did. Merck, 
whose significance in the history of German literature is considerable, 
and whose correspondence shows him to have critically influenced 
men greatly his superiors in production, was one of the most zealous 
propagators of EngUsh literature. He began by translating Hutche- 
son On Beauty, Addison's Cato, and Shaw's Travels in the Levant. 
The Shakspeare neophytes found him prepared to share their enthu- 
siasm ; and when, in 1772, he persuaded Schlosser to undertake the 
editing of the Frankfurter Gelehrten Anzeigen, and to make it the 
Moniteur of the Sturm und Drang party, his own contributions were 
numerous and valuable.* His ofi&cial duties do not seem to have 
pressed very heavily upon him, for he made frequent excursions, and 
seems to have stayed some time at Frankftirt. The friendship be- 
tween him and Goethe was warm. He saw more deeply than Her- 
der into this singular genius, and on many critical occasions we find 
him always manifesting a clear insight, and a real regard. 

The Eranlrfurter Oelehrten Anzeigen was a point of reunion> bring- 
ing Goethe into relation with many persons of ability. It also 
afibrded him an opportunity of exercising himself in criticism. 
Thirty-five of the articles he wrote for this journal have been col- 
lected into his works, where the curious student will seek them. 
In these studies the time flew swiftly. He had recommenced horse 
and sword exercise, and Klopstock having made skating illustrious, 
it soon became an amusement of which he was never tired j all day 

* See for farther information the work of Stahb : Johann Heinrich Merck, Kin 


long and deep into the night he was to be seen wheeling along; and 
as the full moon rose above the clouds over the wide nocturnal fields 
of ice^ and the night wind rushed at his face^ and the echo of his 
movements came with ghostly sound upon his ear^ he seemed to be 
in Ossian's world. In doors there were studies and music. '' Will 
you ask my violoncello master/^ he writes to Salzmann^ '' if he still 
has the sonatas for two basses^ which I played with him^ and if so^ 
send them to me as quickly as convenient? I practise this art some- 
what more earnestly than before. As to my other occupations^ you 
will have gathered from jny drama {Odtz)^ that the purposes of my 
soul are becoming more earnest.^' 

It has before been hinted that Sturm und Drang, as it manifested 
itself in the mind and bearing of the young doctor, was but very 
moderately agreeable to the old Bath Goethe ; and whatever sym- 
pathy we may feel with the poet, yet, as we are all parents, or hope 
to be, let us not permit our sympathy to become injustice ; let us 
admit that the old Bath had considerable cause for parental uneasi- 
ness, and let us follow the son to Wetzlar without flinging any hard 
words at his father. 




Although Ootz was not pablished until the summer of 1773, it was 
written in the winter of 1771, or, to speak more accurately, the first 
of the three versions into which the work was shaped, was written 
at this time. We must bear in mind that there are three versions : 
the first is entitled the Oeschichte Oottfnedens von Berlichingen mit 
der eisemen Handy dramatisirt,* which was not published until very 
many years afterwards. The second is entitled Gotz von Berlichingen, 
Schauspiely^ and is the form in which the work was origiiially pub- 
lished. The third is an adaptation of this second piece, with a view 
to stage representation, which adaptation was made with Schiller 
during the efiForts to create a national stage at Weimar. J 

The first form is the one I most admire, and the one which, bio- 
graphically, has most interest. While he is on his way to Wetzlar 
we will open his portfoUo, and take out this manuscript for closer 
scrutiny, instead of waiting till he pubUshes the second version. 
Prom a letter to Salzmann we learn that it was written in November 
1771, ''My whole genius is given to an undertc^ing which makes 
me forget Shakspeare, 'Homer, everything; I am dramatising the 
history of the noblest of Germans, to rescue the memory of a brave 
man ; and the labour it costs me kills time here, which is at present 
so necessary for me." He gives the following account of its com- 
position, in the Autobiography : '' An unceasing interest in Shak- 
speare's works had so expanded my mind, that the narrow compass 
of jhe stage and the short time allotted to a representation, seemed 
to me insufficient for the development of an important idea. The 
life of Ootz von Berlichingen, written by himself, suggested the his- 
toric mode of treatment ; and my imagination took so wide a sweep, 
that my dramatic construction also went beyond all theatrical limits 
in seeking more and more to approach life. I had, as I proceeded, 
talked the matter over with my sister, who was'teterested heart and 

• Werie, vol. xxziy, of the edition of 1840. 

t Werke, vol. ix. J Werhe, vol. xxiv. 


soul in such subjects ; and I so often renewed this conversation, 
without taking any steps towards beginning the work, that at last 
she impatiently and urgently entreated me not to be always talking, 
but, once for all, to set down upon paper that which must be so 
distinct before my mind. Moved by this impulse, I began one 
morning to write, without having made any previous sketch or plan. 
I wrote the first scenes, and in the evening they were read aloud to 
Cornelia. She greatly applauded them, but doubted whether I should 
go on so ; nay, she even expressed a decided unbeUef in my perse- 
verance. This only incited me the more ; I wrote on the next day, 
and also on the third. Hope increased with the daily communica- 
tions, and step by step everything gained more life as I mastered the 
conception. Thus I kept on, without interruption, looking neither 
backwards nor forwards, neither to the right nor to the left ; and in 
about six weeks I had the pleasure of seeing the manuscript stitched.^' 
Gottfried von Berlichingen, sumamed of the Iron Hand, was a 
distinguished predatory Burgrave of the sixteenth century;* one of 
the last remains of a turbulent, lawless race of feudal barons, whose 
personal prowess often lent the lustre of romance to acts of bri- 
gandage. Gottfried with the Iron Hand was a worthy type of the 
class. His loyalty was as unshakeable as his courage. Whatever 
his revered emperor thought fit to do, he thought right to be done. 
Below the emperor he acknowledged no lord. With his fellow 
barons he waged continual war. Against the Bishop of Bamberg, 
especially, he was frequently in arms ; no sooner was a peace arranged 
with him, than the Bishop of Mainz was attacked. War was his 
element. With something of Robin Hood chivalry, he was found on 
the side of the weak and persecuted ; unless when the Kaiser called 
for his arm, or unless when tempted by a Uttle private pillage on his 
own account. To his strong arm the persecuted looked for protec- 
tion. A tailor earns two hundred florins by shooting at a mark; 
the sum is withheld ; he goes to Gotz with a piteous tale ; instantly 
the Iron Hand clutches the recalcitrant debtors travelling that way, 
and makes them pay the two hundred florins. 

^ i\i was a tempting subject for a poet of the eighteenth century, this 
bold chivalrous robber, struggling single-handed against the ad- 
vancing power of civilisation, this lawless chieftain making a hope- 
less stand against the Law, and striving to perpetuate the feudal 
spirit. Peculiarly interesting to the poet was the consecration of 

* ^^tt by on oversight makes him flourish in the fifteenth centnry. He was 
1482, and thus reached man's estate with the opening of the sixteenth 


individual greatness in Gotz. Here was a man great not by pri- 
vilege, but by Nature; his superiority given him by no tradition, 
by no court favour, but by favour only of his own strong arm and 
indomitable spirit. And was not the struggle of the whole eighteenth 
century/ a struggle for the recognition of individual worth, of Bights 
against Privileges, of Liberty against Tradition ? Such also was the 
struggle of the sixteenth century. The Reformation was to Religion, 
what the Revolution was to Politics : a stand against the tyranny of 
Tradition — ^a battle for the rights of indimdtial liberty of thought and 
action, against the absolute prescriptions of privileged classes. 

In the Chronicle of Gotz von Berlichingen his deeds are recorded 
by himself with unaffected dignity. There Goethe found materials, 
such as Shakspeare found in Holingshed and Saxo-Grammaticus ; 
and used them in the same free spirit. He has dramatised the 
chronicle — ^made it live and move before us ; but he has dramatised 
a chronicle, not written a drama. This distinction is drawn for a 
reason which will presently appear. 

Viehoflf has pointed out the use which has been made of the 
chronicle, and the various elements whii^ have been added from the 
poet's own invention. The English reader cannot be expected to 
feel the same interest in such details as the German reader does ; it 
is enough therefore to refer the curious to the passage,* and only 
cite the characters invented by Goethe ; these are Adelheid, the vo- 
luptuous, fascinating demon; Elizabeth, the noble wife, in whom 
Goethe's mother saw herself ; Maria, a reminiscence of Frederika ; 
Georg, Franz Lerse, Weislingen, and the Gypsies. The death of 
Gotz is also new. The tower mentioned by Goethe is still extant at 
Heilbronn, under the name of Gotzen's Thurm. The rest, including 
the garden, is the creation of the poet. Grotz was confined for only 
one night in that tower. His death, which according to the play 
must have happened in. 1525, did not occur till 1562, when the burly 
old knight, upwards of eighty, died at his castle of Horberg, at peace 
with all men, and in perfect freedom. His tomb may be seen at the 
monastery of Schonthal.* 

Gotz was a dramatic chronicle, not a drama. It should never 
have been called a drama, but left in its original shape with its 
original title. This would have prevented much confusion ; espe- 
cially with reference to Shakspeare, and his form of dramatic com- 
position. While no one can mistake the inflii€nc^gs£Shakspea.Te in 

* Goethe's Leben, toI. ii, pp. 77, 79. ^ * i / 

t Connt Joseuh Berlichingen, the present representative of tlio family, has re- 
cently pnblishea a Life of Qotz, but it has not reached me. 


tMs work^ there is great laxity of language in calling it Shakspearian ; 
a laxity common enough^ but not admissible. Critics are judges 
who rely on precedents with the rigour of judges on the bench. 
\ They pronounce according to precedent. That indeed is their office. 
' No sooner has an original work made its appearance^ than one of 
these two courses is invariably pursued : it is rejected by the critics 
because it does not range itself under any acknowledged class^ and 
thus is branded because it is not an imitation ; or it is quietly clas- 
sified under some acknowledged head. The latter was the case with 
Qoiz von Berlichmgen. Because it set the unities at defiance^ and 
placed the people beside the nobles on the scene ; because instead 
of declaiming^ as in French tragedy^ the persons spoke dramati- 
cally to the purpose ; because^ in short, it did not range under the 
acknowledged type of French tragedy, it was supposed to range 
under the Shakspearian type — ^the duly accepted antagonist to the 

Is it like Othello? Is it hke Macbeth? Is it like Richard III, 
Henry IV, King John, Julius Caesar, or any one unquestioned play 
by Shakspeare ? Unless the words " Shakspearian style^' are mean- 
ingless, people must mean that Gotz resembles Shakspeare's plays 
in the structure and organisation of plot, in the delineation of cha- 
racter, and in the tone of dialogue ; yet a cursory review of the play 
will convince any one that in all these respects it is singularly unlike 
Shakspeare's plays. 

In construction it differs from Shakspeare, first, as intended to re- 
present an epoch rather than a story ; secondly, as taking the licenses 
of narrative art, instead of keeping the stage always in view, and 
submitting to the stem necessities of theatrical representation; 
thirdly, as wanting in that central unity round which all the persons 
and events are grouped, so as to form a work of art. It is a succes- 
sion of scenes ; a story of episodes. 

In the presentation of character the work is no less un- Shak- 
spearian. Our national bigotry, indeed, assumes that every masterly 
portraiture of character is Shakspearian ; an assumption which can 
hardly maintain itself in the presence of Sophocles, Racine, and 
Goethe. Each poet has a manner of his own, and Shakspeare's 
manner if assuredly not visible in Gotz von Berlichingen. The cha- 
racters move before us with singular distinctness in their external 
characteristics, l^ut they do not, as in Shakspeare, involuntarily 
betray the inmost secret of their being. We know them by their 
language and their acte ; we do not know their thoughts, their self- 
sophistications, tlieir involved and perplexed motives, partially ob- 


scared even to themselves^ and seen by us in the cross lights which 
break athwart their passionate utterances. To take a decisive ex« 
ample : Weislingen is at once ambitious and irresolute, well-meaning 
and weak.* The voice of friendship awakens remorse in him, and 
forces him to accept the proffered hand of Gotz. He swears never 
again to enter the bishop's palace. But, easily seduced by noble 
thoughts, he is afterwards seduced as easily by vanity : tempted he 
falls, turns once more against his noble friend, and dies betrayed 
and poisoned by the wife to whom he has sacrificed all— dies unpitied 
by others, despicable to himself. This vacillation is truthful, but not 
truthfiilly presented. We who only see the conduct cannot explain 
it. We stand before an enigma, as in real life ; not before a character 
such as Art enables us to see, and see through. It is not the business 
of Art to present enigmas ; and Shakspeare, in his strongest, hap- 
piest moods, contrives to let us see into the wavering depths of the 
soulsy while we follow the actions of his characters. Contrast Weis- 
lingen with such vacillating characters as Richard II, King John, or 
Hamlet. The difference is not of degree, but of kind. 

Nor is the language Shakspearian. It is powerful, picturesque, 
clear, dramatic; but it is not pregnant with thought, obscured 
in utterance, and heavy with that superfoetation of ideas, which 
is a characteristic and often a fault in Shakspeare. It has not his 
redundancy, and prodigal imagery. Indeed it is very singular, and 
as the production of a boy especially so, in the absence of all rhe- 
torical amplification, and of all deHght in imagery for its own sake. 

It was the first-bom of the Romantic School, or rather of the ten- 
dency from which that school issued; and its influence has been 
wide-spread. It gave the impulse and direction to Scott's historical 
genius, which has altered our conceptions of the past, and given new 
life to history. It made the Feudal Ages a subject of eager and 
almost universal interest. It decided the fate of French tragedy in 
German literature. But its influence on dramatic art has been, I 
think, more injurious than beneficial, and mainly because the dis- 
tinction between a dramatized chronicle and a drama has been lost 
sight of. 

This injurious influence is traceable in the excessive importance it 
has given to local colour, and the intermingling of the historic with 
the dramatic element. Any one at all acquainted with the produc- 
tions of the Romantic School in Germany or France will understand 
this. Goethe's object not being to write a drama, but to dramatise 

* In his vacillation, Gk>eth6 meant to stigmatize his own weakness with regard 
to Frederika, as he tdls us in the Wahrheit und DUhtung, 


a picture of the times^ local colour was of primary importance ; and 
because he made it so attractive^ others have imitated him in depart- 
ments where it is needless. Nay^ critics are so persuaded of its im- 
portance^ that they strain every phrase to show us that Shakspeare 
was also a great painter of times ; forgetting that local colouring is 
an appeal to a critical and learned audience, not an appeal to the 
heart and imagination. It is history, not drama. Macbeth in a 
bag- wig, with a small sword at his side, made audiences tremble at 
the appalling ruin of a mind entangled in crime. The corrected cos- 
tume would not make that tragedy more appalling, had we not now 
grown so critical that we demand historical '^ accuracy'% where, in 
the true dramatic age, they only demanded passion. The merest 
glance at our own dramatic literature will suffice to show the prepon- 
derating (and misplaced) influence of History, in the treatment, no 
less than in the subjects chosen. 

Ootz, as a picture of the times, is an animated and successful 
work; but the eighteenth century is on more than one occasion 
rudely thrust into the sixteenth ; and on this ground Hegel denies 
its claim to the highest originality. '^ An original work appears as 
the creation of one mind, which, admitting of no external influence, 
fuses the whole work in one mould, as the events therein exhibited 
were fused. If it contains scenes and motives which do not naturally 
evolve themselves from the original materials, but are brought toge- 
ther from far and wide, then the internal unity becomes necessarily 
destroyed, and these scenes betray the author's subjectivity. For 
example, Goethe's Ootz has been greatly lauded for originality, nor 
can we deny that he has therein boldly trampled imder foot all the 
rules and theories which were then accepted : but the execution is 
notwithstanding not thoroughly original. One may detect in it the 
poverty of youth. Several traits, and even scenes, instead of being 
evolved from the real subject, are taken from the current topics of 
the day. The scene, for example, between Gotz and Brother Martin, 
which is an allusion to Luther, contains notions gathered from the 
controversies of Goethe's own day, when — especially in Germany — 
people were pitying the monks because they drank no wine, and be- 
cause they had passed the vows of chastity and obedience. Martin, 
on the other hand, is enthusiastic in his admiration of Gx>tz, emd his 
knightly career : * When you return back laden with spoils, and say, 
such a one I struck from his horse ere he could discharge his piece ; 
such another I overthrew, horse and man ; and then, returning to 
your castle, you find your wife.' . . . Here Martin wipes his eye and 
pledges the wife of Gotz. Not so — ^not with such thoughts did 
Luther begin, but with quite another religious conviction !" 


" In a similar style/' Hegel continues, '* Basedow's pedagogy is 
introduced. Cliildren, it was said, learn much that is foolish and 
unintelligible to them ; and the real method was to make them learn 
objects, not names. Karl thus speaks to his father just as he would 
have spoken in Groethe's time from parrot-memory: 'Jaxt-hausen 
is a Tillage and castle upon the Jaxt, which has been the property 
and heritage for two hundred years of the Lords of Berlichingen.' 
'Do you know the Lord of Berlichingen ?' asks Gotz; the child 
stares at him, and, from pure erudition, knows not his own father. 
Grdtz declares that he knew ^very pass, pathway, and ford about the 
place, before he knew the name of village, castle, or river.''* 

Considered with reference to the age in which it was produced, 
Ootz von Berlichingen is a marvellous work : a work of daring powei*^ 
of vigour, of originality ; a work to form an epoch in the annals of 
letters. Those who now read it as the work of the great Goethe 
may be somewhat disappointed ; but at the time of its appearance 
no such ' magnificent monster' had startled the pedantries and pro- 
prieties of the schools ; — " a piece," said the critic in the Teutschs 
Mercur of the day, '' wherein the three unities are shamefully out- 
raged, and which is neither a tragedy nor a comedy, and is, notwith- 
standing, the most beautiful, the most captivating monstrosity." 

The breathless rapidity of movement renders a first reading too 
hurried for proper enjoyment ; but on recurring to the briefly indi- 
cated scenes, we are amazed at their fulness of life. How marvellous, 
for example, is that opening scene of the fifth act (removed from the 
second version), where Adelheid is in the gipsies' tent ! Amid the 
falling snow shines the lurid gleam of the gipsy fire, around which 
move dusky figures ; and this magnificent creature stands shudder- 
ing as she finds herself in the company of an old crone who tells her 
fortune, while a wild-eyed boy gazes ardently on her and alarms her 
with his terrible admiration ; the whole scene lives, yet the touches 
which caH it into life are briefer than in any other work I can 

* Hxobl's VorUiwngen fiber die JBiiketik, i, p. 882. 





In the spring of 1772 he arrived at Wetzlar with Ootz in his port- 
folio, and in his head many wild, unruly thoughts. A passage in the 
Autobiography amusingly illustrates his conception of the task he 
had undertaken in choosing to inform the world of his early history. 
Remember that at Wetzlar he fell in love with Charlotte, and lived 
through the experience which was fused into Werther, and you will 
smile as you hear him say : " What occurred to me at Wetzlar is of 
no great importance, but it may receive a higher interest if the reader 
will allow me to give a cursory glance at the history of the Imperial 
Chamber, in order to present to his mind the unfavourable moment 
at which I arrived.^' This it is to write autobiography when one has 
outlived almost the memories of youth, and lost sympathy with 
many of its agitations. At the time he was in Wetzlar he would have 
looked strangely on any one who ventured to tell him that the his- 
tory of the Imperial Chamber was worth a smile from Charlotte ; 
but at the time of writing his meagre account of Wetzlar, he had, 
perhaps, some diflSculty in remembering what Charlotte's smiles were 
like. The biographer has a diflScult task to make any coherent story 
out of this episode.* 

In Wetzlar there were two buildings interesting above all others 
to iis — the Imperial Court of Justice, and Das teutsche Hems. The 
Imperial Court was a Court of Appeal for the whole empire, a sort 
of German Chancery. Imagine a Qerman Chancery ! In no country 
does Chancery move with railway speed, and in Germany even the 
railways are slow. Such a chaotic accumulation of business as this 
Wetzlar Kmrntier-Gericht presented, was perhaps never seen before. 

• Fortunately, during the very months in which I was rewriting this work, there 
appeared an invaluable record in the shape of the correspondence between Gk>ethe 
and Kestner, so often alluded to by literary historians, but so imperfectly known. 
(Qoethe und Werther, Briefe Qdethe^s, meUtens atu seiner Jugemdueit. Herausge- 
^eben von A. Kestner : 1854). This book, which is very much in need of an editor, 
18 one of the richest sources to which access has been had for a right understanding 
of Gk>ethe's youth ; and it completes the series of corroborative evidence by which 
to control the autobiography. 

1T72.] . WEtZLAR. 11:) 

Twenty thousand cases lay undecided on Goethe's aiTival, and there 
were but seventeen lawyers to dispose of them. About sixty was the 
utmost they could get through in a year, and every year brought 
more than double that number to swell the heap. Some cases had 
lingered through a century and a half, and still remained far from a 
decision. This was not a place to impress the sincere and eminently 
practical mind of Goethe with a high idea of Jurisprudence. 

Bos teutsche Havs was one of the remnants of the ancient insti- 
tution of the Teutsche Ritter^ or Teutonic Order of Knighthood, 
celebrated in German mediaeval history. The student is familiar 
with the black armour and white mantles of these warrior-priests, 
who fought with the zeal of missionaries and the terrible valour of 
knights, conquering for themselves a large territory, and still greater 
influence. But it fared with them as with the knights of other 
Orders. Their strength lay in their zeal; their zeal abated with 
success. Years brought them increasing wealth, but the spiritual 
wealth and glory of their cause departed. They became what aU 
corporations inevitably become ; and at the time now written of they 
were reduced to a level with the knights of Malta. The Order still 
possessed property in various parts of Germany, and in certain towns 
there was a sort of steward's house, where rents were collected and 
the business of the Order transacted ; this was uniformly styled das 
teuische Hau^. There was such a one in Wetzlar; and the Ami" 
mann, or steward, who had superintendence over it, was a certain 
Herr Buff, on whom the reader is requested to fix his eye, not for 
any attractiveness of Herr Buff, intrinsically considered, but for the 
sake of his eldest daughter, Charlotte. She is the heroine of this 
Wetzlar episode. 

Nor was this house the only echo of the ancient Ritterthum in 
Wetzlar. Goethe, on his arrival, found there another, and more 
consciously burlesque parody, in the shape of a Round Table and its 
Knights, bearing such names as St. Amand the Opiniative, Eustace 
the Prudent, Lubormirsky the Combative, and so forth. It was 
founded by August Friedrich von Gou^, secretary to the Brunswick 
Embassy, of whom we shall hear more : a wild and whimsical fellow, 
not without a streak of genius, who drank himself to death. He 
bore the title of Ritter Coucy, and christened Goethe " Qbtz von 
BerUchingen der Redliche — Gotz the Honest''. In an imitation of 
Werther which. Gone wrote,* a scene introduces this Round Table at 
one of its banquets at the Tavern ; a knight sings a French song, 

• M€i$wren, oder der junge Werther. Ein Trauerspiel aus dem Illyrischen. 1775, 


114 LIFE AND WORKS OF OOETHE. ^ [Book iii. 

whereupon Gotz exdaims^ ''Thou, a German Ritter, and singest 
foreign songs \" Another knight asks Gotz, ''How far have you 
advanced with the monument which you are to erect to your an- 
cestor ?^' Gotz rephes, "It goes quietly forward. Methinks it will 
be a slap in the face to pedants and the pubhc/'* 

Of this Round Table and its buflTooneries, Goethe has merely told 
us that he entered heartily into the fun at first, but soon wearying of 
it, relapsed into his melancholy fits. " I have made many acquaint- 
ances,'^ says Werther, "but have found no society. I know not 
what there is about me so attractive that people seek my company 
with so much ardour. They hang about me, though I cannot walk 
two steps in their path.'' A description of him, written by Kestner 
at this period, is very interesting, as it gives us faithfully the im- 
pression he produced on his acquaintances before celebrity had 
thrown its halo round his head, and dazzled the perceptions of his 
admirers : 

"In the spring there came here a certain Goethe, by trade t a 
Doctor Juris, twenty-three years old, only son of a very rich father ; 
in order — this was his father's intention — ^that he might get some 
experience in vraad , but according to his own intention, that he 
might studyfflomea) Pindar, etc., and whatever else his genius, his 
manner of thmkMg; and his heart might suggest to him. 

"At the very first the beaux esprits here announced him to the 
public as a colleague, and as a collaborator in the new Frankfurt 
Gelehrte Zeitung, parenthetically also as a philosopher, and gave 
themselves trouble to become intimate with him. As I do not 
belong to this class of people, or rather am not so much in general 
society, I did not know Goethe until later, and quite by accident. 
One of the most distinguished of our beaux esprits, the Secretary 
of Legation Gotter, persuaded me one day to go with him to the 
village of Garbenheim — a common walk. There I found him on the 
grass, under a tree, lying on his back, while he talked to some per- 
sons standing round him — an epicurean philosopher (von Gou^, a 
great genius), a stoic philosopher (von Kielmansegge), and a hybrid 
between the two (Dr. Konig) — ^and thoroughly enjoyed himself. 
He was afterwards ^lad that I had made his acquaintance under such 
circumstances. Many things were talked of — some of them very in- 
teresting. This time, however, I formed no other judgment con- 
cerning him than that ho was no ordinary man. You know that 1 

♦ " Ein Stuck das Meister und GeseUen aufa Maul scliliigt." Cited by Appkll : 
Werther und seine Zeit, p. 38. 

f Seiner Handthierung naeh. The word is old German, and now fallen out of use, 
although the verb kandthieren is stiU occasionaUy used. 

1772.] WETZLAK ' 116 

do not jadge hastily. I found at once tliat he had genias, and a 
lively imagination ; but this was not enough to make me estimate 
him highly. 

" Before I proceed further, I must attempt a description of him, as 
I have since learned to know him better. He has a great deal of 
talent, is a true genius and a man of character ; possesses an extra- 
ordinarily vivid imagination, and hence generally expresses himself 
in images and similes. He ofben says, himself, that he always speaks 
figuratively, and can never express himself literally ; but that when 
he is older he hopes to think and say the thought itself as it really 
is. He is ardent in all his affections, and yet has often great power 
over himself. His manner of thinking is noble : he is so free from 
prejudices that he acts as it seems good to him, without troubling 
himself whether it will please others, whether it is the fashion, 
whether conventionalism allows it. All constraint is odious to 

" He is fond of children, and can occupy himself with them very 
much. He is bizarre, and there are several things in his manners 
and outward bearing which might make him disagreeable. But 
with children, women, and many others, he is nevertheless a favourite. 
He has a great respect for the female sex. In pi-iiidpiis he is not 
yet fixed, and is still striving after a sure system. To say some- 
thing of this, he has a high opinion of Rousseau, but is not a bUnd 
worshipper of him. He is not what is called orthodox. Still this 
is not out of pride or caprice, or for the sake of making himself a 
rdle. On certain important subjects he opens himself to few, and 
does not willingly disturb the contentment of others in their own 
ideas. It is true he hates scepticism, strives after truth and after 
conviction on certain main points, and even believes that he is already 
convinced as to the weightiest j but as far as I have observed, he is 
not yet so. He does not go to church or to the sacrament, and 
prays seldom. For, says he, I am not hypocrite enough for that. 
Sometimes he seems in repose with regard to certain subjects, some- 
times just the contrary. He venerates the Christian religion, but 
not in the form in which it is presented by our theologians. He be- 
lieves in a future life, in a better state of existence. He strives 
after truth, yet values the feeling of truth more than the demon- 
stration. He has already done much, and has many acquirements, 
much reading ; but he has thought and reasoned still more. He has 
occupied himself chiefly with the helhs lettres and the fine arts, 
or rather with all sorts of knowledge, except that which wins 



On the margin of this rough draught, Kestner adds : " I wished 
to describe him, but it would be too long a business, for there is 
much to be said about him. In one word, he is a very remarkable 

Further on : ^' I should never have done, if I attempted to de- 
scribe him fully.'' 

The Gotter referred to at the opening of this letter was a young 
man of considerable culture, with whom Goethe became intimate 
over renewed discussions on art and criticism. ''The opinions of 
the ancients," he says, " on these important topics I had studied by 
fits and starts for some years. Aristotle, Cicero, Quinctilian, Lon- 
ginus — ^none were neglected, but they did not help me, for they pre- 
supposed an experience which I needed. They introduced me to a 
world infinitely rich in works of art ; they unfolded the merits of 
great poets and orators, and convinced me that a vast abundance of 
objects must lie before us ere we can think upon them — that we must 
accomplish something, nay fail in something, before we *can learn 
our own capacities and those of others. My knowledge of much 
that was good in ancient literature was merely that of a schoolboy, 
and by no means vivid. The most splendid orators, it was apparent, 
hsA formed themselves in life, and we could never speak of them as 
artists without at the same time mentioning their personal peculi- 
arities. With the poets this was perhaps less the case : but every- 
where nature and art came in contact only through life. And thus 
the result of all my investigations was my old resolution to study 
Nature, and to allow her to guide me in loving imitation.'' 

Properly to appreciate this passage we must recall the almost uni- 
versal tendency of the Germans to construct poems in conformity 
with definite rules, making the poet but a development of the critic. 
Lessing nobly avowed that he owed all his success to his critical sa- 
gacity ; Schiller, it is notorious, hampered his genius by fixing on 
his Pegasus the leaden wings of Kant's philosophy ; and Klopstock 
himself erred in too much criticism. Goethe was the last man to 
disdain the rich experience of centuries, the last man to imagine 
that ignorance was an advantageous basis for a poet to stand upon, 
but he was too thoroughly an artist not to perceive the insufficiency 
of abstract theories in the production of a work of art which should 
be the expression of real experience. 

In conjunction with Gotter he translated Goldsmith's '' Deserted 
Village," though he speaks slightingly of his share in it. Through 
Getter's representations he was also persuaded to publish some little 

1772.] WETZLAR, 117 

poems in Boie's Annual. " I thus* came into contact with those,^^ 
he says, ''who, united by youth and talent, afterwards effected so 
much in various ways. Burger, Voss, Holty, the two Counts Stol- 
berg, and several others grouped round Klopstock; and in this 
poetical circle, which extended itself more and more, there was de- 
veloped a tendency which I know not exactly how to name. One 
might call it that need of independence which always arises in times 
of peace — that is to say precisely when, properly speaking, one is 
not dependent. In war we bear restraints of force as well as we 
can ; we are physically, but not morally wounded ; the restraint dis- 
graces no one; it is no shame to serve the time; we grow accus- 
tomed to suffering both from foes^nd friends ; we have wishes rather 
than definite views. On the contrary, in times of peace our love of 
freedom becomes more and more prominent, and the greater our 
freedom, the more we wish for it ; we will tolerate nothing above us ; 
we will not be restrained ; no one shall be restrained ! This tender, 
sometimes morbid feeHng, assumes in noble souls the form of justice : 
such a spirit then manifested itself everywhere; and because but 
few were oppressed, it was wished to free these from occasional op- 
pression. And thus arose a certain moral contest between indivi- 
duals and the government, which, however laudable its origin, led to 
unhappy results. Voltaire, reverenced for his conduct in the affair 
of Calais, had excited great attention; and in Germany Lavater's 
proceedings against the Landvogt (sheriff of the province), had 
perhaps been even more striking. The time was approaching when 
dramatists and novelists sought their villains among ministers and 
ofBcial persons ; hence arose a world, half real, half imaginary, of 
action and reaction, in which the most violent accusations and insti- 
gations were made by writers of periodical journals, under the garb 
of justice, who produced the more powerful effect because they made 
the pubUc imagine that it was itself the tribunal — a foolish notian, as 
no public has an executive power ; and in Germany, dismembered as 
it was, public opinion neither benefited nor injured any one.'* 

It was a period of deep unrest in Europe : the travail of the French 
revolution. In Germany the spirit of the revolution issued from the 
study and the lecture hall ; it was a Uterary and philosophic insur- 
rection, with Lessing, Klopstock, Kant, Herder, and Goethe, for 
leaders. Authority was everywhere attacked, because everywhere it 
had shown itself feeble, or tyrannous. The majestic peruke of 

• Diintzer in his Shidien has thrown doubts on this connexion with the Gdttingen 
school having oripnated in Wotzlar. Bat the point is of no importance, anc^ 
Goethe*s own version is left undisturbed in the text. 

118 LIFE AND W0RK8 OF OOETHE. [Book ui. 

Louis XIV was lifted by an audacious hand, which thus revealed the 
baldness so long concealed. No one now believed in that Grand 
Monarque ; least of all Goethe, who had Ootz von Berlichingen in his 
portfolio, and to whom Homer and Shakspeare were idols. '^ Send 
me no more books,'' writes Werther, " I will no longer be led> in- 
cited; spurred by them. There is storm enough in this breast. I 
want a cradle-melody, and that I«have in all its fulness in Homer. 
How often do I lull with it my raging blood to rest I" The Kestner 
correspondence proves, what before was known, that Werther is full 
of biography, and that Goethe was then troubled with fits of depres- 
sion following upon days of the wildest animal spirits. He was fond 
of solitude; and the lonely hours passed in reading, or making 
sketches of the landscape in his rough imperfect style. 

^'A marvellous serenity has descended on my spirit,'' writes 
Werther, ^^to be compared only to the sweet mornings of spring 
which so charm my heart. I am alone, and here life seems de- 
licious in this spot formed for natures hke mine. I am so happy, 
so filled with the calm feeling of existence, that my art suffers. 
I cannot sketch, yet never was I a greater painter than at this 
moment ! When the dear valley clothes itself in vapour, and the 
sun shines on the top of my impenetrable forest and only a few 
gleams steal into its sanctuary, while I He stretched in the tall grass 
by the cascade, curiously examine the many grasses and weeds, and 
contemplate the little world of insects with their innumerable forms 
and colours, and feel within me the presence of the Almighty who 
formed us after his own image, the breath of the All-loving who sus- 
tains us in endless bliss, — my friend, when my eyes are fixed on all 
these objects, and the world images itself in my soul like the form 
of a beloved, then I yearn and say : Ah ! couldst thou but express 
that which lives within thee, that it should be the mirror of thy soul, 
as thy soul is the mirror of the Infinite God !" 

The image of Frederika pursued him. It could only be banished 
by the presence of another. '^ When I was a boy," he prettily says 
in a letter to Salzmann, ^' I planted a cherry-tree, and watched its 
growth with delight. Spring frost killed the blossoms, and I had to 
wait another year before the cherries were ripe — then the birds ate 
them ; another year the caterpillars — then a greedy neighbour — then 
the blight. Nevertheless, when I have a garden again, I shall again 
plant a cherry-tree !" He did so : 

*' And from Beauty passed to Beauty, 
Constant to a constant change."* 


1772.] WETZLAK 119 

The image which was to supplant that of Prederika was none other 
than that of the Charlotte Buff, before mentioned. Two years before 
his arrival, her mother had died. The care of the house and .children 
devolved upon her; she was only sixteen, yet good sense, house- 
wifely aptitude, and patient courage, carried her successfully through 
this task. She had for two years been betrothed to Kestner, secre- 
tary to the Hanoverian legation, then aged four-and-twenty : a quiet, 
orderly, formal, rational, cultivated man, possessing great magnani- 
mity, as the correspondence proves, and a dignity which is in nowise 
represented in the Albert of Werthei', from whom we must be careful 
to distinguish him, in spite of the obvious identity of position. How 
Goethe came to know Kestner has already been seen ; how he came 
to know Lotte may now be told.* The reader with Werther in hand 
may compare the narrative there given with this extract from Kest- 
ner's letter to a friend. " It happened that Goethe was at a ball in 
the country where my maiden and I also were. I could only come 
late, and was forced to ride after them. My maiden, therefore, drove 
there in other society. In the carriage was Dr. Goethe, who here 
first saw Lottchen. He has great knowledge, and has made Nature 
in her physical and moral aspects his principal study, and has sought 
the true beauty of both. No woman here had pleased him. Lott- 
chen at once fixed his attention. She is young, and although not 
regularly beautiful, has a very attractive face. Her glance is as 
bright as a spring morning, and especially it was so that day, for 
she loves dancing. She was gay, and in quite a simple dress. He 
noticed her feeling for the beauty of Nature, and her unforced wit, 
— rather humour than wit. He did not know she was bethrothed, 
I came a few hours later; and it is not our custom in pubUc to 
testify anything beyond friendship to each other. He was exces- 
sively gay (this he often is, though at other times melancholy) ; 
Lottchen quite fascinated him, the more so because she took no 
trouble about it, but gave herself wholly to the pleasure of the mo- 
ment. The next day, of course, Goethe called to inquire after her. 
He had seen her as a lively girl, fond of dancing and pleasure ; he 
now saw her under another and a better aspect, — in her domestic 

To judge from her portrait, Lotte must, in her way, have been a 
charming creature : not intellectually cultivated, not poetical, — above 
all, not the sentimental girl described by Werther; but a serene, 
calm, joyous, openhearted German maiden, an excellent housewife, 

• Lotte and Lottchen, it ia perhaps not altogether superfluous to add, ore the 
&Y0urite diminutives of Charlotte. 


and a priceless manager. Goethe at once fell in love with her. An 
extract from Kestner^s account will tell us more. After describing 
his engagement to Lotte, he adds, — " She is not strictly a brilliant 
beauty, according to the common opinion ; to me she is one : she is, 
notwithstanding, the fascinating maiden who might have hosts of ad- 
mirers, old and young, grave and gay, clever and stupid, etc. But 
she knows how to convince them quickly that their only safety must 
be sought in flight or in friendship. One of these, as the most re- 
markable, I will mention, because he retains an influence over us. 
A youth in years (twenty-three), but in knowledge, and in the deve- 
lopment of his mental powers and character, already a- man, an ex- 
traordinary genius, and a man of character, was here,^ — ^as his family 
believed, for the sake of studying the law, but in fact to track the 
footsteps of Nature and Truth, and to study Homer and Pindar. 
He had no need to study for the sake of a maintenance. Quite by 
chance, after he had been here some time, he became acquainted 
with Lottchen, and saw in her his ideal : he saw her in her joyous 
aspect, but was soon aware that this was not her best side; he 
learned to know her also in her domestic position, and, in a word, 
became her adorer. It could not long remain unknown to him that 
she could give him nothing but friendship ; and her conduct towards 
him was admirable. Our coincidence of taste, and a closer acquaint- 
ance with each other, formed between him and me the closest bond 
of friendship. Meanwhile, although he was forced to renounce all 
hope in relation to Lottchen, and did renounce it, yet he could not, 
with all his philosophy and natural pride, so far master himself as 
completely to repress his inclination. And he has qualities which 
might make him dangerous to a woman, especially to one of suscep- 
tibility and taste. But Lottchen knew how to treat him so as not to 
encourage vain hope, and yet make him admire her manner towards 
him. His peace of mind suffered : there were many remarkable 
scenes, in which Lottchen^s behaviour heightened my regard for her ; 
and he also became more precious to me as a f|dend ; but I was often 
inwardly astonished that love can make such strange creatures even 
of the strongest and otherwise the most self-sustained men. I pitied 
him, and had many inward struggles ; for, on the one hand, I thought 
that I might not be in a position to makp Lottchen so happy as he 
would make her ; but, on the other hand, I could not endure the 
thought of losing her. The latter feeling conquered, and in Lott- 
chen I have never once been able to perceive a shadow of the same 

Another extract will place this conflict in its true light : — " I am 

1772] WETZLAR. 121 

under no further engagement to Lottchen than that under which an 
honourable man stands when he gives a young woman the preference 
above all others, makes known that he desires the like feeling from 
her, and when she gives it, receives from her not only this, but a 
complete acquiescence. This I consider quite enough to bind an 
honourable man, especially when such a relation lasts several years. 
But in my case there is this in addition, that Lottchen and I have 
expressly declared ourselves, and still do so with pleasure, without 
any oaths and asseverations/' This absence of any legal tie between 
them must have made Kestner's position far more trying. It gives 
a higher idea both of his generous forbearance and of the fascination 
exercised by Goethe : for what a position ! and how much nobility 
on all sides was necessary to prevent petty jealousies ending in a 
violent rupture ! Certain it is that the greatest intimacy and the 
most affectionate feelings were kept up witlvout disturbance. Confi- 
dent in the honour of his friend and the truth of his mistress, Kestner 
never spoiled the relation by a hint of jealousy. Goethe was con- 
stantly in Lotte's house, where his arrival was a jubilee to the children, 
who seized hold of him, as children always take loving possession of 
those who are indulgent to them, and forced him to tell them stories. 
It is a pleasant sight to see Goethe with children ; he always shows 
such hearty fondness for them; and these brothers and sisters of 
Lotte were doubly endeared to him because they belonged to her. 

One other figure in this Wetzlar set arrests our attention : it is that 
of a handsome blonde youth, with soft blue eyes and a settled me- 
lancholy expression. His name is Jerusalem, and he is the son 
of the venerable Abbot of Riddagshausen.* He is here attached as 
secretary to the Brunswick Legation, a colleague, therefore, of von 
Gou^. He is deeply read in English literature, and has had the 
honour of Lessing's friendship ; a friendship subsequently expressed 
in the following terras, when Lessing, acting as his editor, wrote the 
preface to his Philosophical Essays : " When he came to Wolfen- 
biittel he gave me his friendship. I did not enjoy it long, but I 
cannot easily name one who in so short a space of time excited in 
me more affection. It is true I only learned to know one side of his 
nature, but it was the side which explains all the rest. It was the 
desire for clear knowledge ; the talent to follow truth to its last con- 
sequences ; the spirit of cold observation ; but an ardent spirit not 
to be intimidated by truth. . . . How sensitive, how warm, how active 
this young inquirer was, how true & man among men, is better 

• No Catholic, ojb this title mi^ht seem to imply, but a Protostant ; his Abbey, 
secularized two centuries before, yielded him only a title and revenues. 

122 LIFE AND WORKS OF OOETIiE. [Boon iii. 

known to more intimate friends." The Essays which these words 
introduce are five in number; the titles are given below.* 

The melancholy of his disposition led him to think much of suicide, 
which he defended on speculative grounds. And this melancholy, 
and these meditations, were deepened by an unhappy passion for 
the wife of one of his friends. The issue of that passion we shall 
have to narrate in a future chapter. For the present it is enough to 
indicate the presence of this youth among the circle of Goethe^s ac- 
quaintances. They saw but little of each other, owing to the retiring 
sensitiveness of Jerusalem ; probably the same cause had kept them 
asunder years before in Leipsic, where they were fellow-students ; 
but their acquaintance furnished Goethe with material which he was 
afterwards to use in his novel. 

Jerusalem's unhappy passion and Goethe's unhappy passion, one 
would think, must have been a bond of union between them ; but in 
truth Goethe's passion can scarcely have been called '' unhappy" — 
it was rather a deUcious uneasiness. Love, in the profound, ab- 
sorbing sense, it was not. It was an imaginative passion, in which 
the poet was more implicated than the man. Lotte excited his ima- 
gination ; her beauty, her serene gaiety, her affectionate manners, 
charmed him ; the romance of his position heightened the charm, by 
giving an unconscimts security to his feelings. I am persuaded that 
if Lotte had been free, he would have fled from her as he fled from 
Prederika. In saying this, however, I do not mean that the impos- 
sibility of obtaining her gave him any comfort. He was restless, 
impatient, and, in a certain sense, unhappy. He believed himself 
to be desperately in love with her, when in truth he was only in 
love with the indulgence of the emotions she excited; a paradox 
which will be no mystery to those acquainted with the poetic tem- 

Thus passed the summer. In August he made a little excursion 
to Giessen, to see Professor Hopftier, one of the active writers in 
the Frankfurter Gelehrten Anzeigen. Characteristically he calls on 
the professor incognito, presenting himself as a shy awkward stu- 
dent ; which, as Hopfner only knows him through correspondence, 
is facile enough. The comic scene ends by his jumping into the 
professor's arms, exclaiming, " I am Goethe !" In Giessen, he found 
Merck. He persuaded him to return to Wetzlar, to be introduced 
to Lotte. Merck came ; but so far from undervaluing her, as the 

* I. DaBs die Sprache dem ersten Menschen durch Wunder nicht mitgetheilt 
sein kann. ii. Ueber die Natur tind den Ursprung der allgemeinen und abstrakten 
Begriffe. iii. Ueber die Freilieit. iv. Ueber die Mendelssolinsche Theorie vom 
Binnlichen VcrgnUgen. v. Ueber die vermischten Empfindimgen. 

17720 WETZLAR, 123 

very inaccurate account in the Autobiography would have us under- 
stand^ Merck wrote to a friend : *^ J^ai trouv^ aussi Pamie de Goethe, 
cette fille dont il parle avec tant d'enthousiasme dans toutes ses 
lettres. EUe m^rite r^ellement tout ce qu^il pourra dire du bien sur 
son compte/'* He exasperated Goethe by preferring the '^Juno 
form'' of one of her friends, and pointing her out as the more worthy 
of attention, because she was disengaged. That Goethe should have 
been offended, was in the order of things ; but in the retrospective 
glance which he gave to this period in his old age, he ought to have 
detected the really friendly spirit animating Merck ; he ought not to 
have likened him to Mephistopheles ; the more so as Merck's re- 
presentations were really effectual, and hastened the denouement. 
Every day made Goethe's position less tenable. At last he consented 
to tear himself away, and accompany Merck in a trip down the 
Bhine. It was time. Whatever factitious element there may have 
been in his romance, the situation was full of danger ; indulgence in 
such emotions would have created at last a real and desperate pas- 
sion ; there was safety but in flight. 

Merck left Wetzlar, having arranged that Goethe should join him 
at Coblentz. The following extracts from Kestner's Diary will re- 
mind the reader of Goethe's departure from Leipsic without saying 
adieu to Kathchen. His dislike of '^ scenes" made him shrink from 
those emotions of leave-taking usually so eagerly sought by lovers. 

'' 8ept. \Oth, 1772. To-day Dr. Goethe dined with me in the 
garden ; I did not know that it was the last time. In the evening 
Dr. Goethe came to the teutsche Hatis. He, Lottchen, and I, had a 
remarkable conversation about the future state; about going away 
and returning, etc., which was not begun by him, but by Lottchen. 
We agreed that the one who died first should, if he could, give in- 
formation to the living, about the conditions of the other Kfe. 
Goethe was quite gast down, for he knew that the next morning ho 
was to go." 

*^ Sept. Wthy 1772. This morning at seven o'clock Goethe set off 
without taking leave. He sent me a note with some books. He had 
long said that about this time he would make a journey to Coblentz, 
where the pay-master of the forces, Merck, awaited him, and that he 
would say no good-byes, but set off suddenly. So I had expected it. 
But that I was, notwithstanding, unprepared for it, I have felt — felt 
deep in my soul. In the morning I came home. ^Herr Dr. Goethe 
sent this at ten o'clock.' I saw the books and the note, and thought 
what this said to me — ^ He is gone !' — ^and was quite dejected. 
• Briefe avs dem Freundeskreiae von Ooethe, Herder, Merckt p. 59. 


Soon after, Hans* came to ask me if he were really gone ? The 
Geheime Bdthin Langen had sent to say by a maid-servant : ' It was 
very ill-maimered of Dr. Goethe to set off in this way, without taking 
leave.' Lottchen sent word in reply : * Why had she not taught her 
nephew better V Lottchen, in order to be certain, sent a box which 
she had of Groethe's, to his house. He was no longer there. In the 
middle of the day the Gelidme Bdthin Langen sent word again : 'She 
would, however, let Dr. Goethe's mother know how he had conducted 
himself.' Every one of the children in tKe teuUche HaiLs was saying: 
' Doctor Ooethe ia gone /' In the middle of the day I talked with Herr 
von Bom, who had accompanied him, on horseback, as far as Brunn- 
fells. Goethe had told him of our evening's conversation. Goethe 
had set out in very low spirits. In the afternoon I took Goethe's 
note to Lottchen. She was sorry about his departure; the tears 
came into her eyes while reading. Yet it was a satisfaction to her 
that he was gone, since she could not give him the affection he de- 
sired. We spoke only of him ; indeed, I could think of nothing 
else, and defended the manner of his leaving, which was blamed by a 
silly person ; I did it with much warmth. Afterwards I wrote him 
word what had happened since his departure." 

How graphically do these simple touches set the whole situation 
before us : the sorrow of the two lovers at the departure of their 
friend, and the consternation of the children on hearing that Dr. 
Goethe is gone ! One needs such a picture to reassure us that the 
episode, with all its strange romance, and with all its danger, was not 
really a fit of morbid sentimentalism. Indeed, had Goethe been the 
sentimental Werther he has represented, he would never have had 
the strength of will to tear himself from such a position. He would 
have blown his brains out, as Werther did. On the other hand, note 
what a worthy figure is this of Kestner, compared with the cold 
Albert of the novel. A less generous nature would have rejoiced in 
the absence of a rival, and forgotten, in its joy, the loss of a friend. 
But Kestner, who knew that his friend was his rival, — ^and such 
a rival, that doubts crossed him whether this magnificent youth were 
not really more capable of rendering Lotte happy than he himself 
was, — grieved for the absence of his friend ! 

Here is Goethe's letter, referred to in the passage just quoted from 
the Diary : 

'' He is gone, Kestner ; when you get this note, he is gone ! 
Give Lottchen the enclosed. I was quite composed, but your con- 
versation has torn me to pieces. At this moment I can say nothing 
* One of Lotte*8 brothers. 




to you but farewell. If I had remained a moment longer with you I 
could not have restrained myself. Now I am alone^ and to-morrow 
I go. O my poor head V^ 

This was the enclosure, addressed to Lotte : 

'^ I certainly hope to come again, but God knows when ! Lotte, 
what did my heart feel while you were talking, knowing, as I did, 
that it was the last time I should see you ? Not the last time, and 
yet to-morrow I go away. He is gone ! What spirit led you to that 
conversation ? When I was expected to say all I felt, alas ! what I 
cared about was here below, was your hand, which I kissed for the 
last time. The room, which I shall not enter again, and the dear 
father who saw me to the door for the last time. I am now alone, 
and may weep ; I leave you happy, and shall remain in your heart. 
And shall see you again ; hut not to-morrow is never ! Tell my boys. 
He is gone. I can say no more/' 




Having sent his luggage to the house of Frau von Laroche, where 
he was to meet Merck, he made the journey down the Lahn, on foot. 
A delicious sadness subdued his thoughts as he wandered dreamily 
along the river banks ; and the lovely scenes which met his eye 
solicited his pencil, awakening once more the ineffectual desire (which 
from time to time haunted him) of becoming a painter. He had really 
no faculty in this direction, yet the desire often suppressed now rose up 
in such a serious shape, that he resolved to settle for ever whether he 
should devote himself to the art or not. The test was curious. The 
river glided beneath, now flashing in the sunlight, now partially con- 
cealed by willows. Taking a knife from his pocket he flung it with 
his left hand into the river, having previously resolved that if he 
saw it fall he was to become an artist ; but if the sinking knife were 
concealed by the willows he was -to abandon the idea. No ancient 
oracle was ever more ambiguous than the answer now given him. 
The willows concealed the sinking knife, but the water splashed up 
like a fountain, and was distinctly visible. So indefinite an answer 
left him in doubt.* 

He wandered pleasantly on the banks till he reached Ems, and 
then journeyed down the river in a boat. The old Rhine opened upon 
him ; and he mentions with peculiar delight the magnificent situa- 
tion of Oberlahnstein, and, above all, the majesty of the castle of 
Ehrenbreitstein. On arriving at the house of Geheimrath von La 
Roche, where he had been announced by Merck, he was most kindly 
received by this excellent family. His literary tendencies bound him 

* This mode of interrogatiiig fate recalls that strange passage in Roubseait^s 
Confessions (Livre vi), where he throws a stone at a tree : if he hits, it is a sign of 
salvation ; if he misses, of damnation ! Fortunately he hits : " Ce qni, y^rii»ble- 
ment, n'^tais pas difficile, car j 'avals eu le soin de le ohoisir fort gros- et fort pr^ ; 
depiiis lors je n*ai plus dout^ de mon salut/' Had Gk>ethe read this passage ? The 

Covfessions appeared in 1768, that is, four years before this journey down the Lahn. 
Yet from a passage in one of his letters to the Frau von §tein, it seems as if he 
then, 1782, first read the Confessions. 


to the mother ; his joyousness and strong sense^ to the father ; his 
youth and poetry, to the daughters. The Prau von Laroche, Wie- 
land's eariiest love, had written a novel in the Richardson style. Die 
Geschichte des Frduleins von Stemheim ; and Schafer remarks that 
she pDDbably gathered Merck, Goethe, and others into her house with 
a view to favourable criticisms of this novel. If this were her de- 
sign, she succeeded .with Goethe, who reviewed her book in the 
Frankfurter GeleKrten Anzeigen. Whether this compliance was ex- 
torted by herself, or by the charms of her daughter Maximiliane, his- 
tory saith not ; certain it is that the dark eyes of the daughter made 
an impression on the heart of the young reviewer. She is the Mile. 
B. introduced in Werther; but she is even still more intet esting to us 
as the future mother of Bettina. They seem to have looked into 
each other's eyes, flirted and sentimentalised, as if no Lotte had been 
left in Wetzlar. Nor will this surprise those who have considered the 
mobile nature of our poet. He is miserable at moments, but the ful- 
ness of abounding hfe, the strength of victorious will, and the sen- 
sibility to new impressions, keep his ever-active nature from the 
despondency which killed Werther. He is not always drooping be- 
cause Charlotte is another's. He is open to every new impression, 
serious or gay. Thus, among other indications, we find him throw- 
ing oflT in Pater Brey and Satyros, sarcasm and humour which are 
curious as products of the Werther period, although of no absolute 
worth ; and we follow him up the Rhine, in company with Merck and 
his family, leisurely enjoying Rheinfels, St. Gear, Bacharach, Bingen, 
Elfeld, and Biberich, — 

" The blending of all beauties ; streams and dells. 
Fruit, foliage, crag, wood, cornfield, mountain, vine. 
And chiefless castles, breathing stem farewells 
From gray but leafy walls where Ruin greenly dwells" — 

sketching as if life were a leisure summer day. 

He returned to Frankfurt, and busied himself with law, literature, 
and painting. Wandering Italians, then rare, brought casts of an- 
tique statues to Frankfurt; and with delighted eagerness he pur- 
chased a complete set, thus to revive as much as possible the grand 
impression he received at Mannheim. Among his art-studies must 
be noted the attention bestowed on the Dutch painters. He began 
to copy some still-life pictures ; one of these he mentions with pride, 
and what, think you, this one was ? — a copy of a tortoiseshell knife- 
handle inlaid with silver ! He has Gotz von Berlichingen in his port- 
folio, and delights in copying a knife-handle ! 

To law he devoted himself with greater assiduity than ever. His 



fi^ther^ delighted at going througli the papers with him, was pecu« 
liarly gratified at this honourable diligence, and in his dehght was 
willing to overlook the other occupations of " this singular creature,^' 
as he rightly named him. Goethe^s Uterary plans were numerous, 
and the Frankfurt Journal gave him constant opportunities for ex- 
pressing himself on poetry, theology, and even politics. Very sig- 
nificant IS the following passage from one of these articles, in reply 
to the complaint that the Germans had no Fatherland, no Patriot- 
ism. '' When we have a place in the world where we can repose 
with our property, a field to nourish us, and a house to cover us, 
have we not there our Fatherland ? and have not thousands upon 
thousands in every city got this ? and do they not live happy in 
their limited sphere ? Wherefore, then, this vain striving for a sen- 
timent we neither have nor can have, a sentiment which only in 
certain nations, and in certain periods, is the result of many concur- 
rent circumstances ? Roman patriotism 1 God defend us from it, 
as from a giant I we could not find the stool upon which to sit, 
nor the bed on which to lie in such patriotism V* He was also re- 
writing Ootz von Berlichingen. He found, on re-reading the manu- 
script, that, besides the unities of time and place, he had sinned 
against the higher unity of composition. He says, — 

'^In abandoning myself to my imagination, I had not deviated 
much in the beginning, and the first acts were pretty much as had 
been intended. In the following acts, however, and especially to- 
wards the end, I was unconsciously led away by a singular passion. 
In making Aldelheid so loveable, I had fallen in love with her myself, 
— ^my pen was unconsciously devoted to her alone, — the interest in 
her fate gained the preponderance ; and as, moreover, Gotz, towards 
the end, has little to do, and afterwards only returns to an unhappy 
participation in the Peasant War, nothing waff more natural than that 
a charming woman should supplant him in the mind of the author, 
who, casting off the fetters of art, thought to open a new field. I 
was soon sensible of this defect, or rather this culpable superfluity, 
since my poetical nature always impelled me to unity. Instead of 
the biography of Gotz and German antiquities, I now confined my 
attention to my own work, to give it more and more historical and 
national substance, and to cancel that which was fabulous or pas- 
sionate. In this I indeed sacrificed much, as the inchnation of the 
man had to yield to the conviction of the artist. Thus, for instance, 
I had placed Aldelheid in a terrific nocturnal gipsy scene, where she 
produced a great effect by her beautiful presence. A nearer exami- 
nation banished her; and the love affair between Franz and his 


gracious lady, which was very circumstantifiJly carried on in the 
fourth and fifth acts, was much condensed, and only the chief points 

"Without altering the manuscript, which I still possess in its 
original shape, I determined to re- write the whole, and did this with 
such activity; that in a few weeks I produced an entirely new ver- 
sion. It had never been my intention to have the second poem 
printed, as I looked upon this likewise as no more than a prepa- 
ratory exercise, the foundation of a new work, to be accomplished 
with greater industry and deliberation. 

" When I suggested my plans to Merck, he laughed at me, and 
asked what was the meaning of this perpetual writing and re- 
writing ? The work, he said, by this means, only becomes different, 
and seldom better ; you must see what effect one thing produces, 
and then try something new. ' Be in time at the hedge, if you 
would dry your linen,' he exclaimed, in the words of the proverb : 
hesitation and delay only make uncertain men. On the other hand, 
I pointed out how unpleasant it would be to offer a bookseller a 
work on which I had bestowed so much affection, and perhaps have 
it refused ; for how would they judge of so young, nameless, and 
audacious an author ? As my dread of the press gradually vanished, 
I wished to see printed my comedy Die Mitschuldi^en^ upon which I 
set some value, but I found no publisher inclined to undertake it. 

'' Here the mercantile taste of my friend was at once excited. He 
proposed that we should publish at our own expense this singular 
and striking work, from which we should derive large profit. Like 
many .others, he used often to reckon up the bookseller's profit, 
which with many works was certainly great, especially if what was 
lost by other writings and commercial a£birs was left out of the cal- 
culation. We settled that I should procure the paper, and that he 
should answer for the printing. To work we went, and I was 
pleased to see my wild dramatic sketch in clean proof sheets ; it 
looked really better than I myself expected. We completed the 
work, and it was sent off in several parcels. It was not long before 
the attention it excited became universal. But as, with our limited 
means, the copies could not be forwarded, a pirated edition suddenly 
made its appearance. As, moreover, there could be no immediate 
return, especially in ready money, for the copies sent out, and as my 
treasury was not very flourishing at the time when much attention 
and applause was bestowed upon me, I was extremely perplexed 
how to pay for the paper by means of which I had made the world 
acquaint'Cd with my talent. On the other hand, Merck, who knew 


better how to help himself, was certain that all would soon come 
right again ; but I never perceived that to be the case." 

There is some inaccuracy in the foregoing, which a comparison of 
the first and second versions of the work will rectify. The changes 
he effected were very slight, and mainly consist in the striking out 
of the two scenes in which Adelheid plays so conspicuous a part. 

A greater inaccuracy, amounting to injustice, is contained in the 
passage about Herder, as we now learn from the Posthumous Papers 
of the latter, from which it is clear that he did greatly admire Gotz, 
and wrote warmly of it to his betrothed, saying, ''you will have 
some heavenly hours of delight when you read it, for there is in it 
uncommon German strength, depth, and truth, although here and 
there it is rather schemed than artistically wrought {nur gedacht).'' 
Probably in writing to Goethe he was more critical, and as usual 
with him, somewhat pedagogic ; but it is also probable that he was 
loud in praise, since the poet replies, " Your letter was a consolation. 
I already rank the work much lower than you do. Your sentence 
that Shakspeare has quite spoiled me, I admit to the full. The 
work must be fused anew, freed from its dross, and with newer, 
better metal cast again. Then it shall appear before you.'' He 
seems to tiave been nettled (not unnaturally) at the sentence, '' all 
is rather schemed than artistically wrought,'' which, he says, is true 
of Emilia Galotti, and prevents his altogether liking it, although a 
master-piece. Judging from a tolerably extensive acquaintance with 
authors in relation to criticism, I should think it highly probable 
that the longer Goethe pondered on Herder's letter the fainter 
became his pleasure in the praise, and the stronger his irritation at 
the blame. I have known a feeling of positive gratitude for a cri- 
ticism, slowly change into an uneasy and almost indignant impres- 
sion of injustice having been done. That Goethe did not, on reflection, 
so entirely concur with the objections he was at first ready to admit, 
appears from the fact that he did not recast his work. 

When Ootz appleared the effect on the public was instantaneous, 
startling. Its bold expression of the spirit of Freedom, its defiance 
of French criticism, and the originality no less than the power of the 
writing, carried it triumphant over Germany. It was pronounced a 
masterpiece in all the salons and in all the beer-houses of that un- 
easy time. Imitations followed with amazing rapidity; the stage 
was noisy with the clang of chivalry, and the book shelves creaked 
beneath the weight of resuscitated Feudal Times. 

An amusing example of '' the trade" is mentioned by Goethe. A 


bookseller paid him a visit, and with the air of a man weD-satisfied 
with his proposal, offered to give an order for a dozen plays in the 
style of Qotz, for which a handsome honorariiim should be paid. 
His offer was the more generous, because such was the state of 
literature at this period, that, in spite of the success Gotz achieved, 
it brought no money to its author — pirated editions circulating 
everywhere, and robbing him of his reward. Moreover, what 
the bookseller proposed was what the public expected. When 
once a writer has achieved success in any direction, he must con- 
tinue in that direction, or peril his reputation. An opinion has 
been formed of him ; he has been classed ; and the public will not have 
its classification disturbed. Nevertheless, if he repeat himself, this 
unreasoning public declaims against his ^^ poverty .^^ No man ever 
repeated himself tess than Goethe. He did not model a statue, and 
then amuse himself with taking casts of it in different materials. 
He lived, thought, and suffered ; and because he had lived, thought, 
and suffered, he wrote. When he had once expressed his experience 
in a work, he never recurred to it. The true artist, like the snake, 
casts his skin, but never resumes it. He works according to the 
impulse from within, not according to the demand from without. 
And Goethe was a genuine artist, never exhausting a lucky disco- 
very, never working an impoverished vein. Every poem came fresh 
from life, coined from the mint of his experience. 

Grgtz is the greatest product of the Sturm und Drang movement. 
As we before hinted, this period is not simply one of vague wild 
hopes and retrospections of old German life, it is also one of un- 
healthy sentimentalism. Goethe, the great representative poet of 
his day — ^the secretary of his age — gives us masterpieces which cha- 
racterise both these tendencies. Beside the insurgent Gotz, stands 
the dreamy Werther. And yet, accurately as these two works re- 
present two active tendencies of that time, they are both far removed 
above the perishing extravagances of that time ; they are both ideal 
expressions of the age, and as free from the disease which corrupted 
it, as Goethe himself was free from the weakness of his contempo- 
raries. Wilkes used to say that he had never been a Wilkite. 
Goethe was never a Werther. To appreciate the distance which se- 
parated him and his works from his sentimental contemporaries and 
their works, we must study the characters of such men as Jaoobi, 
Klinger, Wagner, and Lenz, or we must read such works as WoU 
demar. It will then be plain why Goethe turned with aversion from 
such works, his own included, when a few years had cleared his in- 
sight, and settled his aims. Then also will be seen the difference 




between genius whieli idealises the spirit of the age^ and talent 
wluch panders to it.* 

It was, indeed, a strange epoch; the unrest was the unrest of 
disease, and its extravagances were morbid symptoms. In the letters, 
memoirs, and novels, which still remain to testify to the follies of 
the age, may be read a self-questioning and sentimental intro- 
spection, enough to create in healthy minds a distaste both for sen- 
timent and self-questioning. A factitious air is carried even by the 
most respectable sentiments ; and many not respectable array them- 
selves in rose-pink. Nature is seldom spoken of but in hysterical 
enthusiasm. Tears and caresses are prodigally scattered, and upon 
the slightest provocations. In Coburg an Order of Mercy and Ex* 
piation is instituted by sensitive noodles. Leuchsenring, whom 
Goethe satirised in Pater Brey as a professional sentimentalist, gets 
up a secret society, and calls it the Order of Sentiment, to which 
tender souls think it a* privilege to belong. Friendship is fantasti- 
cally deified ; brotherly love draws trembling souls together, not on 
the solid grounds of affection and mutual service, but on entirely 
imaginaiy grounds of "spiritual communion'*; whence arose, as 
Jean Paul wittily says, " an universal love for all men and beasts — 
except reviewers.'' It was a sceptical epoch, in which everything 
established came into question. Marriage, of course, came badly off 
among a set of men who made the first commandment of geixiuB to 
consist in loving your neighbour and your neighbour's wife. • 

These were symptoms of disease ; the social organisation was out 
of order; a crisis, evidently imminent, was heralded by extrava- 
gances in Uterature, as elsewhere. The cause of the disease was 
want of faith. In rehgion, in philosophy, in politics, in morals, this 
eighteenth centoiy was ostentatious of its disquiet and disbelief. 
The old faith, which for so long had made European life an organic 
unity, and which in its tottering weakness had received a mortal 
blow from Luther, was no longer universal, living, active, dominant ; 
its place of universal directing power was vacant ; a new faith had 
not arisen. The French Bevolution was another crisis of that or- 
ganic disturbance which had previously shown itself in another order 
of ideas, — in the Reformation. Beside this awful crisis, other minor 
crises are noticeable. Everywhere the same Protestant spirit breaks 
through traditions in morals, in Uterature, and in education. What- 
ever is established, whatever rests on tradition, is questioned. The 
classics are no longer beUeved in ; men begin to maintain the doc- 

* As Earl GrOn epifframmatically says of Goetho and his contemporaries, "he 
■'^'as at once patient and physician, they were patients and nothing else." 


trine of progress, and proclaim the superiority of the modems. Art 
is pronounced to be in its nature progressive. Education is no 
longer permitted to pursue its broad traditional path ; the methods 
which were excellent for the past, no longer suffice for the present ; 
everywhere new methods rise up to ameliorate the old. The divine 
right of institutions ceases to gain credence. The individual claimed 
and proclaimed his freedom : freedom of thought and freedom of 
act. Freedom is the watchword of the eighteenth century. 

Enough has been said to indicate the temper of those times, and 
to show why Weriher was the expression of that temper. Turning 
to the novel itself, we find it so bound up with the life of its author, 
that the history of his life at this epoch is the record of the materials 
from which it was created; we must, therefore, retrace our steps 
again to the point where Goethe left Wetzlar, and, by the aid of his 
letters to Kestner, follow the development of this strange romance. 

Goiz was published in the summer of 1773. It was in the autimin 
of 1772 that Goethe left Wetzlar, and returned home. His letters 
to Kestner and Charlotte are full of passionate avowals and tender 
reminiscences. The capricious orthography and grammar to be no« 
ticed in them, belong to a period when it was thought unworthy 
of a genius to conform to details so fastidious as correct spelling, 
and good grammar ; but the affectionate nature which warms these 
letters, the abundant love the writer felt and inspired, these belong 
to Mm, and not to his age. IS. a proof were wanted of Goethe^s 
loving disposition, we might refer to these letters, especially those 
addressed to the young brother of Charlotte. The reader of this 
Biography, however, will need no such proof, and we may therefore 
confine ourselves to the relation of Goethe to the Kestners. '' God 
bless you, dear Kestner," runs one of the early letters, " and teU 
Lotte that I often believe I can forget her ; but then I have a relapse, 
and it is worse with me than ever." He longs once more to be 
sitting at her feet, letting the children clamber over him. He writes 
in a strain of melancholy, which is as much poetry as sorrow : when 
a thought of suicide arises, it is only one among the many thoughts 
which hurry through his mind. There is a very significant passage 
in the Autobiography, which aptly describes his reid state of mind : 
" I had a large collection of weapons, and among them a veiy hand- 
some dagger. This I placed by my bedside eveiy night, and before 
extinguishing my candle I made various attempts to pierce the sharp 
point a couple of inches into my breast ; but not being able to do it 
I laughed myself out of the notion, threw aside all hypochondriacal 
fancies, and resolved to live." He played with suicidal thoughts. 


because lie was restless, and suicide was a fashionable speculation of 
the day; but whoever supposes these thoughts of suicide were se- 
rious, has greatly misunderstood him. He had them not, even at 
this period; and when he wrote Wertlier he had long thrown off 
even the faint temptation of poetic longings for death. In October 
1772 the report reaches him that his Wetzlar friend, Gou^, has shot 
himself : " Write to me at once about Gou^," he says to Kestner ; 
" I honaur such an act, and pity mankind, and let all the Philisters 
make their tobacco-smoke comments on it and say : There, you see ! 
Nevertheless, I hope never to make my friends unhappy by such an 
act, myself.^^ He was too full of life to do more than coquette with 
the idea of death. Here is a confession : " I went to Homburg, and 
there gained new love of life, seeing how much pleasure. the appear- 
ance of a miserable thing like me can give such excellent people.^' 
On the 7th of November he suddenly appeared in Wetzlar with 
Schlosser, and stayed there till the 10th, in a feverish, but delicious, 
enthusiasm. He writes to Kestner on reaching home : " It was as- 
suredly high time for me to go. Yesterday evening I had thoroughly 
criminal thoughts as on the sofa. . . . And when I think how above 
all my hopes your greeting of me was, I am very calm. I confess I 
came with some anxiety. I came with a pure, warm, full heart, dear 
Kestner, and it is a hell-pain when one is not received in the same 
spirit as one brings. But so — God give you a whole life such as 
those two days were to me \" 

The report of Gou^^s suicide, before alluded to, turned out to bo 
false ; but the suicide of Jerusalem was a melancholy fact. Goethe 
immediately writes to Kestner : 

" Unhappy Jerusalem ! The news was shocking, and unex- 
pected; it was horrible to have this news as an accompaniment 
to the pleasantest gift of love. The unfortunate man ! But the 
devil, that is, the infamous men who enjoy nothing but the chaff 
of vanity, and have the lust of idolatry in their hearts, and preach 
idolatry, and cramp healthy nature, and overstrain and ruin the fa- 
culties, are guilty of this misery, of our misery. If the cursed par- 
son is not guilty, God forgive me that I wish he may break his neck 
like Eli. The poor young man ! When I came back from a walk, 
and he met me in the moonlight, I said to myself, he is in love. 
Lotte must still remember that I laughed about it. God knows, 
loneliness undermined his heart, and for seven years* his form has 
been familiar to me. I have talked little with him. When I came 

• This " seven years" refers to the first sight of Jerusalem at Leipsic. 


away, I brought with me a book of his ; I will keep that and the 
remembrance of him as long as I live/' 

Among the many inaccuracies of the Autobiography, there is one 
of consequence on the subject of Werther, namely, the assertion 
that it was the news of Jerusalem's suicide which suddenly set him 
to work. The news reached him in October 1772, and in November 
Kestner sent him the narrative of Jerusalem's last days. Not until 
the middle and end of 1773 did he write Wertlier. In fact, the state 
of lus mind at this period is by no means such as the Autobiography 
describes. Read this letter written in December : " That is wonder- 
ful ! I was about to ask if Lenchen* had arrived, and you write to 
tell me she is. If I were only there I would nullify your discourse, 
and astonish all the tailors ; I think I should be fonder of her than 
of Lotte. From the portrait she must be an amiable girl, much 
better than Lotte, if not precisely the • . . And I am free and thirst^ 
ing far love. I must try and come ; yet that would not help me. 
Here am I once more in Frankfurt, and cany plans and fancies 
about with me, which I should not do if I had but a maiden." In 
January he seems to have found a maiden, for he writes: "Tell 
Lotte there is a certain maiden here whom I love heartily, and whom 
I would choose before all others if I had any thought of marriage, 
and she also was bom on the 11th January. f It would be pretty : 
such a pair ! Who knows what God's will is ?" I agree with Vie- 
hoff against Diintzer, that this alludes to Anna Antoinette Gerock, 
a relation of Schlosser's, who is known to have loved him passion- 
ately, and to have furnished some traits for Mignon. Clear it is that 
he is not very melancholy. " Yesterday I skated from sunrise to 
sunset. And I have other sources of joy which I can't relate. Be 
comforted that I am almost as happy as people who love, like you two, 
that I am as full of hope, and that I have lately /eZ^ some poems. My 
sister greets you, my maiden also greets you, my gods greet you." Thus 
we see, that, although Lotto's picture hangs by his bedside, although 
her image hovers constantly before him, and the Teutsche Haus is the 
centre of many yearning thoughts, he is not pining despondently for 
Charlotte. He has rewritten Gotz, and allowed Merck to carry it to the 
printer's. He is living in a very merry circle, one figure in which 
is Antoinette Gerock, as we gather from a letter written in February 
1773, a month after that in which he refers to his " maiden". Here 
is the passage : '^ At Easter I will send you a quite adventurous 
novelty. J My maiden greets Lotte. In character she has much of 

• A sister of Charlotte's. f Lotto's birthday. X Oott. 


Lenchen, and my sister says resembles her portrait. If we were but 
as much in love as you two — meanwhile I will call her my ' dear little 
wife^ for recently she fell to me in a lottery as my wife." She was 
then only fifteen, and their relation to each other will be described 
in chap. vi. 

yAnd now the day approaches when Lotte is' to be married and 
leave Wetzlar. He writes to her brother Hans, begging him, when 
Lotte departs, to write at least once a week, that the connexion 
with the Teutsche Haus may not be broken, although its jew8l is 
carried away. He writes to Kestner to be allowed to get the wed- 
ding ring, '^ I am wholly yours, but from henceforth care not to 
see you nor Lotte. Her portrait too shall away from my bedroom 
the day of her marriage, and shall not be restored till I hear she is 
a mother ; and from that moment a new epoch begins, in which I 
shall not love her but her children, a httle indeed on her account, 
but that's nothing to do with it ; and if you ask me to be godfather, 
my spirit shall rest upon the boy, and he shall make a fool of him^ 
self for a maiden like his mother." Enclosed was this note to Lotte : 
'^ May my memory with this ring for ever remain with you in your 
happiness. Dear Lotte, some time hence we shall see each other 
again, you with this ring on your finger, and I as always thine. I 
know no name or bye-name to sign this with. You know me." 
When the marriage takes place he writes to Kestner. ^' God bless 
you ; you have surprised me. I had meant to make a holy sepulchre 
on Good Friday, and bury Lotto's portrait. But it hangs still by 
my bed, and shall remain there till I die. Be happy. Greet for me 
your angel, and Lenchen ; she shall be the second Lotte, and it shall be 
as well with her. I wander in the desert where no water is, my hair 
is my shade, and my blood my spring." The bridesmaid brings him 
the bridal bouquet, a flower of which he sticks in his hat, as he 
walks to Darmstadt, in a melancholy mood ; but to show that his 
passion for Charlotte was after all only a poetic passion, here is a 
passage in the letter he sent to Kestner immediately after the mar- 
riage : " Kestner, when have I envied you Lotte in the human 
sense ? for not to envy you her in the spiritual sense I must be an 
angel without lungs and liver. Nevertheless I must disclose a secret 
to you. That you may know and behold. When I attached myself 
to Lotte, and you know that I was attached to her from my heart. 
Bom talked to me about it, as people are tvant to talk, ' If I were 
K. I should not like it. How can it end ? You quite cut him out !' 
and the like. Then I said to him in these very words, in his room, 
it was in the morning : * The fact is, I am fool enough to think the 



girl something remarkable ; if she deceived me, and turned out to 
be as girls usually are, and used K. as capital in order to make the 
most of her charms, the first moment which discovered that to me, 
the first moment which brought her nearer to me, would be the last 
of our acquaintance,' and this I protested and swore. And between 
ourselves, without boasting, I understand the maiden somewhat, and 
you know how I have felt for her and for everything she has seen 
and touched, and wherever she has be^i, and shall continue to feel 
to the end of the world. And now see how far I am envious, and 
must be so. For either I am a fool, which it is difficult to believe, 
or she is the subtlest deceiver, or then — ^Lotte, the very Lotte of 
whom we are speaking.'* A few days afterwards he writes : ^* My 
poor existence is petrified to barren rock. This summer I lose all. 
Merck goes. My sister too. And I am alone.'' 

The marriage of Cornelia, his much-loved sister, was to him a 
very serious matter, and her loss was not easily supplied. It came, 
too, at a time when other losses pained him. Lotte was married, 
Merck was away, and a dear friend had just died. Nevertheless, he 
seems to have been active in plans. Among them was most pro- 
bably that of a drama on Mahomet, which he erroneously places at a 
later period, after the journeys with Lavater and Basedow, but which 
Schafer, very properly, restores to the year 1773, as Boie's Annual 
for 1774 contains the Mahomet's song. Goethe has narrated in full 
the conception of this piece, which is veiy grand ; he tells us the 
idea arose within him of illustrating the sad fact, noticeable in the 
biographies of genius, that every man who attempts to realise a 
great idea comes in contact with the lower world, and must place 
himself on its level in order to influence it, and thus compromises his 
higher aims, and finally forfeits them. He chose Mahomet as the 
illustration, never having regarded him as an impostor. He had 
carefully studied the Koran and Mahomet's life, in preparation. 
" The piece," he says, '' opened with a hymn simg by Mahomet 
alone under the open sky. He first adores the innumerable stars ad 
so many gods ; but as the star god (Jupiter) rises, he offers to him, 
as the king of the stars, exclusive adoration. Soon after, the moon 
ascends the horizon, and claims the eye and heart of the worshipper, 
who, refreshed and strengthened by the dawning sun, is afterwards 
stimulated to new praises. But these changes, however delightful, 
are still unsatisfactory, and the mind feels that it must rise still 
higher, and mounts therefore to God, the One Eternal, Infinite, to 
whom all these splendid but finite creatures owe their existence. I 
composed this hymn with great delight ; it is now lost, but might 


easily be restored as a cantata^ and is adapted for music by the va- 
riety of its expression. It would, however, be necessary to imagine 
it sung according to the original plan, by the leader of a caravan 
with his family and tribe ; and thus the alternation of the voices and 
the strength of the chorus would be secured. 

'^ Mahomet converted, imparts these feelings and sentiments to his 
friends ; his wife and Ali become unconditional disciples. In the 
second act, he attempts to propagate this faith in the tribe ; Ali still 
more zealously. Assent and opposition display themselves according 
to the variety of character. The contest begins, the strife becomes 
violent, and Mahomet flies. In the third act, he defeats his enemies, 
makes his religion the public one, and purifies the Kaaba from idols; 
but this being impracticable by force, he is obliged to resort to 
cunning. What in his character is earthly increases and developes 
itself; the divine retires and is obscured. In the fourth act, Mahomet 
pursues his conquests, his doctrine becomes a means rather than an 
end, all kinds of practices are employed, nor are horrors wanting. 
A woman, whose husband has been condenmed by Mahomet, poisons 
him. In the fifth act he feels that he is poisoned. His great calm- 
ness, the return to himself and to his better nature, make him worthy 
of admiration. He purifies his doctrine, establishes his kingdom, 
and dies. 

" This sketch long occupied my mind ; for, according to my 
custom, I was obliged to let the conception perfect itself before I 
commenced the execution. All that genius, through character and 
intellect, can exercise over mankind, was therein to be represented, 
and what it gains and loses in the process. Several of the songs to 
be introduced in the drama, were rapidly composed ; the only one 
remaining of them, however, is the Malwmet^s Oesang, This was to 
be sung by Ali, in honour of his master, at the apex of his success, 
just before the change resulting from the poison." Of all his un- 
realised schemes, this causes me the greatest regret. In grandeur, 
depth, and in the opportunities for subtle psychological unravelment 
of the mysteries of our nature, it was a scheme peculiarly suited to 
his genius. How many Glavigos and Stellas would one not have 
given for such a poem ? 

Maximiliane Laroche had recently married Brentano, a Frankfurt 
^^erchant, a widower, many years her senior, with five children. Goethe 
t>ecame intimate at their house ; and, as Merck writes, " il joue avec 
^es enfans etaccompagne le clavecin de madame avec la basse. M. 
-^^•entano, quoique assez jaloux pour un Italien, Paime et veut abso- 
^^ment qu'il fr^quente la maison." The husband wanted his pre- 


fience^ often as an umpire in the disputes with his wife ; and the 
wife, also, chose him umpire in her disputes with her husband ; nay, 
Merck hints, *^ il a la petite Madame Brentano & consoler sur Podeur 
de Phnile, du fromage, et des manidres de son mari/^ So passed 
autumn and winter, in a tender relation, such as in those days was 
thought blameless enough, but such as modem writers cannot believe 
to have been so blameless. For my part I cannot disbelieve his 
own word on this matter, when he says, '* My former relation to 
the young wife, which was, properly speaking, only that of a brother 
to a sister, was resumed after marriage. Being of her own age, I 
was the only one in whom she heard an echo of those voices to which 
she had been accustomed in her youth. We lived in childish con- 
fidence ; and, althcmgh there was nothing passionate in our intercourse, 
it was painftil, because she was unable to reconcile herself to her new 
condition.^* If not passionate, the relation was certainly sentimental 
and dangerous. Hear how he writes to Frau Jacobi : ^* It goes well 
with me, dear lady, and thanks for your double, triple letter. The 
last three weeks there has been nothing but excitement, and now we 
are as contented and happy as possible. I SRjwe, for since the 15th 
of January not a branch of my existence has been solitary. And 
Fate, which I have so often vituperated, is now courteously entitled 
beautiful, wise Fate, for since my sister left me, this is the first gift 
that can be called an equivalent. The Max is still the same angel 
whose simple and darling qualities draw all hearts towards her, and 
the feeling I have for her — ^wherein her husband would find cause 
for jealousy — ^now makes the joy of my existence. Brentano is a 
worthy fellow, with a frank, strong character, and not without sense. 
The children are Uvely and good.^' An anecdote, related by his 
mother to Bettina, gives us an amusing picture of him parading 
before Max. The morning was bright and frosty. "Wolfgang 
burst into the room where his mother was seated with some friends : 
' Mother, you have never seen me skate, and the weather is so beau- 
tiful to-day.' I put on my crimson fur cloak, which had a long train, 
and was closed in front by golden clasps, and we drove out. There 
skated my son, like an arrow among the groups. The wind had 
reddened his cheeks, and blown the powder out of his brown hair. 
When he saw my crimson cloak he came towards our carriage 
and smiled coaxingly at me. ' Well,' said I, ' what do you want V 
' Come, mother, you can't be cold in the carriage, give me your 
cloak.' ' You won't put it on, will you " ' Certainly.' I took it 
off, he put it on, threw the train over his arm, and away he went 
over the ice like a son of the gods. Oh, Bettina, if you could have 



seen him ! Anything so beautiful is not to be seen now I I clapped 
my hands for joy. Never shall I forget him, as he darted out from 
under one arch of the bridge and in again under the other, the wind 
carrying the train behind him as he flew ! Your mother, Bettina, 
was on the ice, and all this was to please her." 

No thought of suicide in that breast ! 

Quite in keeping with this anecdote is the spirit of the satirical 
farce Ootter, Helden und Wieland, which is alluded to in this passage 
of a letter to Kestner, May 1774, and must therefore have been 
written some time before : ^' My rough joke against Wieland makes 
more noise than I thought. He behaves very well in the matter, as 
I hear, so that I am in the wrong." The origin of this farce was a 
strong feeling in the circle of Goethe^s friends, that Wieland had 
modernised, misrepresented, and traduced the Gb^cian gods and 
heroes. One Sunday afternoon "the rage for dramatising every- 
thing" seized him, and with a bottle of Burgundy by his side he 
wrote off the piece just as it stands. The friends were in raptures 
with it. He sent it to Lenz, then at Strasburg, who insisted on its 
at once being printed. After some demurring, consent was given, 
and at Strasburg the work saw the light. In reading it, the public, 
unacquainted with the circumstances and the mood to which it owed 
its origin, imacquainted also with the fact of its never having been 
designed for publication, felt somewhat scandalised at its fierceness 
of sarcasm. But in truth there was no malice in it. Flushed with 
the insolence and pride of wit, he attacked a poet whom, on the 
whole, he greatly loved ; and Wieland took no offence at it, but re- 
viewed it in the Teutsche Mercur, recommending it to all lovers of 
pasquinade, persiflage, and sarcastic wit. This reminds one of So- 
crates standing up in the theatre, when he was lampooned by Aris- 
tophanes, that the spectators might behold the original of the sophist 
they were hooting on the stage. Goiter, Helden und Wieland is 
really amusing, and under the mask of its buffoonery contains some 
sound and acute criticism.* The peculiarity of it, however, consists 
in its attacking Wieland for treating heroes unheroically, at a time 
when, from various parts of Germany, loud voices were raised against 
Wieland, as an immoral, an unchristian, nay, even an atheistical 
writer. Lavater called upon Christians to pray for this sinner; 
theologians forbade their followers to read his works ; pulpits were 
loud against him. In 1 773 the whole Klopstock school rose against 
him t in moral indignation, and burned his works on Klopstock's 

* It called forth a retort, T7iie»*(j, Menachen, und Ooethe; which has not fallen in 
my way. Critics speak" of it aa personal, but worthless, 
t Ocrvinua, iv. p. 285. 



birthday. Very different was Goethe's ire. He saw that the gods 
and heroes were represented in perruques and satin breeches^ that 
their cheeks were rouged^ their thews and sinews shrunk to those 
of a petit maitre ; and against such a conception of the old Pagan 
life he raised his voice. 

" I cannot blame yon," he writes to Kestner, " for living in the 
world and making acquaintances amongst men of rank and influence. 
Intercourse with the great is always advantageous to him who knows 
properly how to use it. I honour gunpowder, if only for its power 
of bringing me a bird dovm out of the air • ... So in God^s name 
continue, and don't trouble yourself about the opinions of others, 
shut your heart to antagonists as to flatterers • • . . O Kestner, I 
am in excellent spirits, and if I have not you by my side, yet all 
the dear ones are ever before me. The circle of noble natures is the 
highest happiness I have yet achieved. And now, my dear Ootz, 
I trust in his strong nature, he will endure. He is a human offspring 
with many sins, and nevertheless one of the best. Many will object 
to his clothing and rough angles; yet I have so much applause that 
it astonishes me. I don't think I shall soon write anything which 
will again find its public. Meanwhile I work on, in the hope that 
something striking in the whirl of things may be laid hold of." 

On Christmas Day 1773, in answer to Kestner's wish that he 
should come to Hanover and play a part there, he writes this notice- 
able sentence. '' My father would not object to my entering foreign 
service, and no hope or desire of an office detains me here — ^but, 
dear Kestner, the talents a/nd powers which I huve, I need too much 
for my own aims ; I am accustomsd to act a,ccording to my instinct^ 
and therewith can no prince he served,*^ In less than two years he 
was to accept service under a prince ; but we shall see that he did 
so with Ml consciousness of what was required, and of what he could 
afford to give. 

The mention of that prince leads me to make an important correc- 
tion in the date of the first acquaintance with him, erroneously 
placed in the December of 1774 by Goethe. It is useless to inquire 
how Goethe's memory could so have deceived him as to bring this 
important event in conjunction with his first acquaintance with Lili ; 
the dates of the Knebel correspondence are beyond question. On 
the 11th February Knebel paid him a visit, and informed him that 
the two princes, Karl August and Constantino, were desirous of 
seeing him. He went, and was received with flattering kindness, 
especially by Karl August, who had just read Ootz. He dined with 
his royal hosts in a quiet way, and left them, having received and 



produced an agreeable impression. They were going to Mainz, 
whither he promised to follow them. His father, like a sturdy old 
burgher who held aloof from princes, shook his sceptical head at 
the idea of this visit. To Mainz, however, the poet went a day or 
two afterwards, and spent several days with the young princes, as 
their guest. This was his first contact with men of high rank. 

In the following May he hears with joy that Lotte is a mother, and 
that her boy is to be called Wolfgang, after him ; and on the 1 6th of 
June he writes to Lotte : '^ I will soon send you a friend who has 
much resemblance to me, and hope you will receive him well; he is 
named Werther, and is and was — but that he must himself explain.^^ 

Whoever has followed the history thus far, moving on the secure 
ground of contemporary document, will see how vague and inaccurate 
is the account of the composition of Werther given by its author, in 
his restrospective narrative. It was not originated by growing 
despair at the loss of Charlotte. It was not originated by torment- 
ing thoughts of self-destruction. It was not to free himself from 
suicide that he wrote this story of suicide. All these several threads 
were woven into its woof; but the rigour of dates forces us to the 
conviction that Werther y although taken from his experience, was not 
written while that experience was being undergone. Indeed, the true 
philosophy of art would, A pnori, lead us to the conviction that, al- 
though he cleared his " bosom of the perilous stuff^' by moulding this 
perilous stuff into a work of art, he must have essentially outUved 
the storm before he painted it, — conquered his passion, and subdued 
the rebellious thoughts, before he made them plastic to his purpose. 
The poet cannot see to write when his eyes are full of tears ; cannot 
sing when his breast is swollen with sighs, and sobs choke utterance. 
He must rise superior to his grief before he can sublimate his grief 
in song. The artist is a master, not a slave ; he wields his passion, 
he is not hurried along by it ; he possesses, and is not possessed. 
Art enshrines the great sadness of the world, but is itself not sad. 
The storm of passion weeps itself away, and the heavy clouds roll off 
in quiet masses, to make room for the sun, which, in shining through, 
touches them to beauty with its rays. While pain is in its newness, 
it is pain, and nothing else \ it is not Art, but Feeling. Goethe could 
not write Werther before he had outlived Wertherism. It may have 
been, as he says, a " general confession,^^ and a confession which 
brought him certain relief j but we do not confess until we have re- 
pented, and we do not repent until we have outlived the error. 

Wertlier was written rapidly. " I completely isolated myself,'^ he 
says ; " nay, prohibited the visits of my friends, and put aside every- 



thing that did not immediately belong to the subject. Under such 
circumstances, and under so many preparations in secret, I wrote it 
in four weeks, without any scheme of the whole, or treatment of any 
part being previously put on paper/' It is of this seclusion Merck 
writes : " Le grand succ^s que son drame a eu lui toume un peu la 
t^te. H se d^tache de tons ses amis, et n'existe que dans les com- 
positions quMl prepare pour le public.^' 

It is a matter of some interest to ascertain the exact truth respect- 
ing the date of the composition of Werther. As before stated, his 
own account is manifestly inaccurate ; and the only thing which 
renders it difficult to assign the dates with tolerable precision, is 
his statement that it was written in four weeks, without any scheme 
of the whole or treatment of any part having been previously put on 
paper. If we consent to believe that his memory in this case de- 
ceived him, the correspondence of the period furnishes hints from 
which we may conclude that in 1772, on the arrival of the news 
about Jerusalem's suicide, he made a general sketch, either in his 
mind or on paper ; and that during the following year he worked 
at it from time to time. In June, 1773, he writes to Kestner: 
''And thus I dream and ramble through Ufe, writing plays and 
novels, and the like." In July he writes, " I am working my own 
situation into art for the consolation of gods and men. I know 
what Lotte will say when she sees it, and I know what I shall 
answer her.'' The word in the original is Schauspiel — ^play, drama ; 
Viehoff suggests that he does not mean drama, but a work which 
will bring his situation zur Schaw — ^before the pubhc eye. In Sep- 
tember of the same year, he writes : '' You are always by me when I 
write. At present, I am working at a novel, but it gets on slowly." 
In November Frau Jacobi writes to him, acknowledging the receipt 
of a novel, in manuscript, no doubt, which delights her. In February, 
1774, Merck writes of him : " Je pr^vois qu'un roman, qui paraitra 
de lui d p&ques, sera aussi bien re^u que son drame." As we have 
nowhere a hint of any other novel, besides Werther, at this epoch, 
it is difficult to resist the evidence of these dates ; and we must, 
therefore, conclude that the assertion in the autobiography is wholly 

In September 1774 he wrote to Lotte, sending her a copy of 
Werther : " Lotte, how dear this little book is to me thou wilt feel 
in reading it, and this copy is as dear to me as if it were the only 
one in the world. Thou must have it, Lotte ; I have kissed it a 
hundred times ; have kept it locked up that no one might touch it. 
O, Lotte ! And I beg thee let no one except Meyers see it yet ; it 


will be published at the Leipsic fair. I wish each to read it alone^ 
thou alone^ — Kestner alone^ — ^and each to write me a little word 
about it. Lotte^ adieu Lotte V* 

Let us now take a glance at this work^ which startled Europe^ and 
which for a long while was all that Europe knew of Goethe.* 

* SooTT in pre&cing Mb translatioii of Qdt%, says : '* It was written by the elegant 
author of the Sorrows of Weriher." 

1774.] WERTHER, 145 



Aujourdhui Vhomme desire immensinient, mats il veut faiblenient : In 
these words Guizot has written an epigraph for Werther; a book 
composed out of a double history, the history of its author's experi- 
ence, and the history of one of his friends. 

The story of Jerusalem, whom he met in the Wetzlar circle, fiir- 
nished Goethe with the machinery by which to introduce his own 
experience. He took many of the details from Kestner's long letter, 
sent shortly after the catastrophe : the letter may therefore be here 
abridged, as an introduction to the novel. Jerusalem, melancholy 
by temperament, was unhappy during the whole of his Wetzlar re- 
sidence. He had been denied admittance into the high diplomatic 
society to which his position gave him claims ; he had been in un- 
pleasant relations with his ambassador, whose secretary he was ; and 
he had fallen in love with the wife of his friend. Thus oppressed, 
he shunned company, was fond of long moonlight walks, and once 
lost himself in the wood, wandering about the whole night. But he 
was solitary, even in his grief, told none of his friends the causes of 
his melancholy, and solaced himself with novels— ^the wretched novels 
of that day. To these he added all the tragedies he could get hold 
of; EngUsh writers, especially the gloomy writers ; and various phi- 
losophical works. He wrote also essays, one on suicide, a subject 
which greatly occupied him. Mendelssohn's Phcedon was his favourite 
work.* When the rumour reached Wetzlar of Gout's suicide he 
said that Gou^ was not a fit man for such a deed, but defended the 
act. A few days before his own unhappy end he was talking with 
Schleimitz about suicide, and said, "It would be a bad look out, 
however, if the shot were not to take effect !" The rest of the nar- 
rative must be told in Kestner's own words, the simple circumstan- 
tial style best fitting such a history. 

"Last Tuesday he comes with a discontented look to Kielman- 

' * Qoethe, it will be remembered, in Strasburg, made an analysis of this work, 
contrasting it with Plato's. 



segge, who was ill. The latter asks how he is ? ' Better than I 
like to be.' He also that day talked a good deal about love, which 
he had never done before ; and then about the Frankfurter Zeiiung, 
which had for some time pleased him more than usual. In the 
afternoon (Tuesday) he goes to Secretary H.'s. Until eight o'clock 
in the evening they play tarock together. Annchen Brandt was also 
there ; Jerusalem accompanied her home. As they walk, Jerusalem 
often strikes his forehead, gloomily and repeatedly says : ' If one 
were but dead — ^if one were but in heaven P Annchen joked him 
about it; he bargains for a place by her side in heaven, and at 
parting he says : ' It is agreed, then, that I shall have a place by 
you in heaven.' 

^' On Wednesday, as there were great doings at the Crown Prince, 
and everybody invited everybody, he went there to dinner, though 
he generally dined at home, and he brought Secretary H. with him. 
He did not behave there otherwise than usual ; if anything, he was 
more cheerful. After dinner. Secretary H. takes him home with him 
to see his wife. They take coffee ; Jerusalem says to Mrs. H. : 
' Dear Mrs. H., this is the last coffee I shall drink with you.' She 
thinks it a joke, and answers in that tone. The same afternoon 
(Wednesday) Jerusalem was alone at H.'s : what took place there is 
unknown ; perhaps herein lies the cause of what followed. In the 
evening, just as it was dark, Jerusalem comes to Grarbenheim, into 
the usual inn, asks whether anyone is in the room above ? On the 
answer. No, he goes up, soon comes down again, goes out into the 
yard, towards the left, comes back after a httle while, goes into the 
garden ; it becomes quite dark, he remains there a long time, the 
hostess makes her remarks upon this, he comes out of the garden, 
goes past her with hasty steps, all without saying a word, into the 
yard, hurrying straight away from it. 

'^In the meantime, or still later, something passed between H. 
and his wife, concerning which H. confides to a female friend that 
they quarrelled a little about Jerusalem ; and his wife at last desired 
that he would forbid him the house, whereupon he did so the follow- 
ing day, in a note. 

" [It is said* that Secretary H. has given secret information that 
on the Wednesday before Jerusalem's death, when he was vdth H. 
and his wife taking coffee, the husband was obliged to go to the 
ambassador. When he returns, he observes an extraordinary seri- 
ousness in his wife, and a silence in Jerusalem, which appear strange 

* The passage in brackets occurs in a subsequent letter; it is inserted here to 
give the story continuity. 

1774.] WERTHER, 147 

to him^ especially as he finds them so much changed after his return. 
Jerusalem goes away. Secretary H. mAkes his observations on the 
above-mentioned circumstances: he contracts suspicion that some- 
thing injurious to him may have happened in his absence ; for he is 
very suspicious and jealous. Nevertheless, he puts on a composed 
and cheerful air, and determines to put his wife to the test. He 
says: Jerusalem has often invited him to dinner; what does sh^ 
think of their asking Jerusalem for once to dine with them ? She, 
the wife, answers : No ; and she must entirely break off intercourse 
with Jerusalem ; he begins to behave in such a way that she must 
altogether avoid his society. And she held herself bound to tell 
him, her husband, what had passed in his absence. Jerusalem had 
thrown himself at her feet, and had wanted to make a formal decla- 
ration of love to her. She was naturally indignant at this, and had 
uttered many reproaches to him, etc. She now desired that her 
husband would forbid him,. Jerusalem, the house, for she could and 
would neither see nor hear anything more of him. 

'^Hereupon, it is said, H. the next morning wrote the note to 
Jerusalem, etc.] 

'' In the night of Wednesday-Thursday he got up at two o'clock, 
awakened the servant, said he could not sleep, he was not well, has 
a fire lighted, tea made, yet is afterwards, to all appearance, very 

'' Thursday morning, Secretary H. sends Jerusalem a note. The 
maid will not wait for an answer, and goes away. Jerusalem has 
just been shaved. At eleven o'clock Jerusalem sends a note to Se- 
cretary H., who does not take it from the servant, and says he requires 
no answer, he cannot enter into any correspondence, and besides 
they saw each other every day at the oflBice. When the servant 
brings back the note unopened, Jerui^lem throws it on the table and 
says : Very good. (Perhaps to make the servant believe that it re- 
lated to some indifferent matter.) 

'' In the middle of the day he dines at home, but takes little — 
some soup. At oneT o'clock he sends a note to me, and at the same 
time one to his ambassador, in which he begs the latter to send him 
his money for this (or the following) month. The servant comes to 
me. I am not at home, nor is my servant. Jerusalem in the mean- 
time is gone out, comes home about a quarter-past three, the servant 
gives him the note again. Jerusalem asks him why he did not leave 
it at my house with some maid-servant ? He replies, because it was 
open and unsealed. Jerusalem : That was of no consequence, every 
one might read it ; he must take it again. The servant thinks him- 


self hereby warranted to read it also, reads it, and then sends it by a 
boy who waits in the house. I, in the meantime, had come home ; 
it might be half-past three when I received the following note : 
^ Might I beg of you to lend me your pistols for a journey which I 
am about to take ? — J/* As I knew nothing of all this that I have 
told you, or of his principles, having never had any particular inter- 
course with him, I had not the least hesitation in sending him the 

''The servant had read in the note that his master intended to 
make a journey, and indeed the latter had himself told him so, also 
had ordered everything for his journey the next morning at six 
o'clock, even the /mewr, without his (the servant's) knowing whither, 
or with whom, or in what way. But as Jerusalem always kept his 
engagements secret from him, this did not arouse his suspicion. 
Nevertheless he thought to himself : ' Is master perhaps going se- 
cretly to Brunswick, leaving me here alone V etc. He had to take 
the pistols to a gunmaker's to get them loaded. 

'' The whole afternoon Jerusalem was busy alone ; rummaged 
among his papers, wrote, walked, as the people below in the house 
heard, rapidly up and down the room. He also went out several 
times, and paid his small debts ; he had taken a pair of ruffles, he 
said to the servant ; they did not satisfy him, he must return them 
to the tradesman ; if he did not like to take them again, there was 
the money for them, which in fact the tradesman preferred. 

'' About seven o'clock the Italian master came to him. He found 
him restless and out of humour. He complained that he had his 
hypochondriasis again strongly, and about various things ; said also, 
that the best he could do would be to take himself out of the world. 
The Italian urged upon him very seriously that such passions must 
be repressed by philosophy, die. Jerusalem : That is not so easily 
done; he would rather be alone to-day, he might leave him, etc. 
The Italian : fle must go into society, amuse himself, etc. Jeru- 
salem : Well, he was going ou4 again. The Italian, seeing the 
pistols on the table, is anxious about the resulf; goes away at eight 
o'clock and to Kielmansegge, to whom he talks of nothing but Jeru- 
salem, his restlessness and discontent, without however mentioning 
his anxiety, because he believed that he might be laughed at for it. 

" The servant went to Jerusalem to take off his boots. But he 
said, he was going out again ; as he really did, before the Silberthor 
on the Starke Weide and elsewhere in the streets, where, with his 

* " Durfe ich Ew. Wohlgeb. wohl zu einer vorhabenden Reise urn ihre Pistolen gehor- 
samst erauchen 9 The German epistolary forma of civility are not tranfllateable. 

3774.] WERTHElt 149 

hat pressed over his eyes, he rushed by several persons, with i-apid 
steps, without seeing any one. He was also seen about this time 
standing a long time by the river, in a position as if he meant to 
throw himself in (so they say). 

" Before nine o'clock he comes home, says to the servant that there 
must bo more fuel put in the stove, because he shall not go to bed 
yet, also tells him to get everything ready for six o'clock in the 
morning, and has a pint of wine brought to him. The servant, that 
he may be ready very early, because his master was always very 
punctual, goes to bed in his clothes. 

"As soon as Jerusalem was alone, he seems to have prepared 
everything for the dreadful deed. He tore up his correspondence 
and threw it under the table, as I have myself seen. He wrote two 
letters, one to his relations, the other to H. ; it is thought also that 
he wrote one to the ambassador HoflBler, which the latter perhaps 
suppresses. They lay on the writing table. The first, which the 
medical man saw the next morning, contained in substance only what 
follows, as Dr. Held, who read it, related to me : 

'^ ' Dear father, dear mother, dear sisters and brother-in-law, for- 
give your unhappy son and brother; God, God bless you V 

" In the second, he entreated H. for forgiveness that he had dis- 
turbed the peace and happiness of his married life, and created dis- 
sension between this dear couple, etc. At first his inclination for 
H.'s wife had been only virtuous, etc. It is said to have been three 
sheets long, and to have ended thus : — ' One o'clock. In the other life 
we shall see each other again.' (In all probability he shot himself 
immediately on finishing this letter.)" 

The sensation produced in Wetzlar by this suicide was immense. 
People who had scarcely seen Jerusalem were unable to quiet their 
agitation; many could not sleep; the women especially felt the 
deepest interest in the fate of this unhappy youth ; and Werther 
found a public ready for it. 

With these materials in hand, let us take up the novel to see how 
Goethe employs them. Werther is a man who, not having yet learned 
self-mastery, imagines that his immense desires are proofs of immense 
superiority : one of those of whom it has been wittily said that they 
fancy themselves great painters because they paint with a big brush. 
He laughs at all rules, whether they be rules of Art, or rules which 
Convention builds like walls around our daily life. He hates order — 
in speech, in writing, in costume, in office. In a word, he hates all 
control. Gervinus remarks that he turns from men to children be- 
cause they do not pain him, and from them to Nature because she 


does not contradict him ; from truth to poetry, and in poetry from 
the clear world of Homer to the formless world of Ossian. Very 
characteristic of the epoch is the boundless enthusiasm inspired by 
Ossian, whose rhetorical trash the Germans hailed as the finest ex- 
pression of Natures poetry. Old Samuel Johnson^s stem, clear sense 
saw into the very heart of this subject when he said, " Sir, a man 
might write such stuff for ever if he would but abandon his mind 
to it/' It is abandonment of the mind, throwing the reins on 
the horse's neck, which makes such writing possible ; and it was 
precisely this abandonment to impulse, this disregard of the grave 
remonstrances of reason and good sense, which distinguished the 
Werther epoch. 

Werther is not Goethe. Werther perishes because he is wretched, 
and is wretched because he is so weak. Goethe was " king over 
himself.'' He saw the danger, and evaded it ; tore himself away 
from the woman he loved, instead of continuing in a dangerous 
position. Yet although Werther is not Goethe, there is one part of 
Goethe living in Werther. This is visible in the incidents and lan- 
guage as well as in the character. It is the part we see reappearing 
under the various masks of Weislingen, Clavigo, Faust, Fernando, 
Edward, Meister, and Tasso, which no critic will call the same lay 
figure variously draped, but which every critic must see belong to one 
and the same genus : men of strong desires and weak volitions, 
wavering impressionable natures unable to attain self-mastery. 
Goethe was one of those who are wavering because impressionable, 
but whose wavering is not weakness ; they oscillate, but they return 
into the direct path which their wills have prescribed. He was tender 
as well as impressionable. He could not be stem, but he could be 
resolute. He had only therefore, in imagination, to keep in abey- 
ance the native force of resolution which gave him mastery, and in 
that abeyance a weak wavering character stood before him, the 
original of which was himself. 

When a man delineates himself, he always shrinks from a complete 
confession. Our moral nature has its modesty. Strong as the im- 
pulse may be to drag into light that which Ues hidden in the recesses 
of the soul, pleased as we may be to create images of ourselves, we 
involuntarily keep back something, and refuse to identify ourselves 
with the creation. There are few things more irritating than the 
pretension of another to completely understand us. Hence authors 
never thoroughly portray themselves. Byron, utterly without self- 
command, is fond of heroes proud and self-sustaining. Goethe, the 
strongest of men, makes heroes the footballs of circumstance. But 

1774.] WERTHER, 161 

he also draws from his other half the calm^ self-sustaining characters. 
Thus we have the antithesis of Grotz and Weislingen — ^Albert and 
Werther — Carlos and Clavigo — Jamo and Meister — ^Antonio and 
Tasso— the Captain and Edward ; and, deepened in colouring, Mephis- 
topheles and Faust. 

Werther is not much read nowadays, especially in England, where 
it labours under the double disadvantage of a bad name and an ex- 
ecrable translation. Yet it is well worth reading in the original, 
where it will be found very unlike the notion of it current among us. 
I remember many years ago reading it in the execrable English ver- 
sion with astonishment and contempt ; this contempt remained, until 
accidentally falling in with a Spanish translation, the exquisite beauty 
of the pictures changed my feeling into admiration, and Goethe's 
own wonderful prose afterwards fixed that admiration for ever. It is 
a masterpiece of style ; we may look through German literature in 
vain for such clear sunny pictures, fulness of life, and delicately 
managed simplicity. Its style is one continuous strain of music, 
which, restrained within the limits of prose, fulfils all the conditions 
of poetry ; dulcet as the sound of falling waters, and as full of sweet 
melancholy as an autumnal eve. 

Nothing can be simpler than the structure of this book, wherein, 
as M. Marmier well remarks,* every detail is so arranged as to lay 
bare the sufferings of a diseased spirit. Werther arrives at his 
chosen retreat, believing himself cured, and anticipating perfect hap- 
piness. He is painter and poet. The fresh spring mornings, the 
sweet cool evenings, soothe and strengthen him. He selects a place 
under the limes to read and dream away the hours. There he brings 
his pencil and hisJIomer^ Everything interests him — the old woman 
who brings his coffee, the children who play around him, the story of 
a poor family. In this serene convalescence he meets with Charlotte, 
and a new passion agitates his soul. His simple uniform existence 
becomes changed. He endeavours by bodily activity to charm away 
his desires. The days no longer resemble each other : now ecstatic 
with hope, now crushed with despair. Winter comes : cold, sad, 
gloomy. He must away. He departs, and mingles with the world, 
but the world disgusts him. The monotony and emptiness of official 
Ufe are intolerable to his pretensions ; the parchment pride of the 
noblesse is insulting to his sense of superiority. He returns to the 
peaceful scene of his former contentment, and finds indeed Charlotte, 
the children, his favourite woods and walks, but not the calmness 
which he seeks. The hopelessness of his position overwhelms him. 

• Et'SkdMs 8ur Goethe, p. 11. 


Disgusted witfi the world — ^unsatisfied in his cravings — ^he dies by 
his own hand. 

Bosenkrantz — ^in the true spirit of that criticism which seeks every- 
where for meanings more recondite than the author dreamt of — 
thinks that Goethe exhibits great art in making Werther a diplo- 
matist^ because a diplomatist is a man of shanis {scheinthuer) ; but 
the truth is, Goethe made him precisely what he found him. His 
art is truth. He is so great an artist that the simplest realities have 
to him significance. Charlotte cutting bread and butter for the chil- 
dren — ^the scene of the ball — the children clinging round Werther 
for sugar, and pictures of that kind, betray so little inventive power, 
that they have excited the ridicule of some English critics to whom 
poetry is a thing of pomp, not the beautifcd vesture of reality. The 
beauty and art of Werther is not in the incidents (a Dumas would 
shrug despairing shoulders over such invention), but in the repre- 
sentation. What 18 Art but Representation ?* 

The effect of Werther was prodigious. " That nameless unrest,^' 
says Carlyle, " the blind struggle of a soul in bondage, that high, 
sad, longing discontent which was agitating every bosom, had driven 
Goethe abnost to despair. All felt it ; he alone could give it voice. 
And here lies the secret of his popularity; in his deep, susceptive heart 
he felt a thousand times more keenly what every one was feeling ; 
with the creative gift which belonged to him as a poet, he bodied it 
forth into visible shape, gave it a local habitation and a name ; and 
so made himself the spokesman of his generation. Werther is but 
the cry of that dim, rooted pain under which all thoughtful men of a 
certain age were languishing : it paints the misery, it passionately 
utters the complaint; and heart and voice all over Europe loudly 
and at once respond to it. True it prescribes no remedy ; for that 
was a far different, far harder enterprise, to which other years and a 
higher culture were required ; but even this utterance of pain, even 
this little, for the present is grasped at, and with eager sympathy 
appropriated in every bosom. If Byron's life weariness, his moody 
melancholy, and mad, stormful indignation, borne on the tones of a 
wild, and quite artless melody, could pierce so deep into many a 
British heart, now that the whole matter is no longer new^ — ^is in- 
deed old and trite — ^we may judge with what vehement acceptance 
this Werther must have been welcomed, coming, as it did, like a 

• "U art West qu'une forme,** saja G^rge Sand« with a truth few critics have 
penetrated ; let me add Goethe's own opinion— eurely of weight in such matters : 
'* None will comprehend the simple tnitn that the highest, the only operation of art 
i« representation." (Qeeialtung,) 

1774.] WERTBER, 163 

voice from the unknown regions : the first thrilling peal of that im- 
passioned dirge which, in country after country, men^s ears have 
listened to till they were deaf to all else. For Werthery infusing itself 
into the core and whole spirit of literature, gave birth to a race of 
sentimentalists who have raged and wailed in every part of the world, 
till the better light dawned on them, or, at worst, exhausted nature 
laid herself to sleep, and it was discovered that lamenting was un- 
productive labour. These funereal choristers, in Germany, a loud, 
haggard, tumultuous, as well as tearful class, were named the Kraft- 
mcmnery or Powermen ; but have long since, like sick children, cried 
themselves to rest.''* 

Perhaps there never was a fiction which so startled and enraptured 
the world. Men of all kinds and classes were moved by it. It was 
the companion of Napoleon, when in Egypt ; it penetrated into 
China. To convey in a sentence its wondrous popularity, we may 
state that in Germany it became a people's book, hawked about the 
streets, printed on miserable paper, like an ancient ballad ; and in 
the Chinese empire, Charlotte and Werther were modelled in por- 
celain, t 

Objectors of course there were. Lessing, for example, who neither 
sufiered from the disease of the epoch, nor tolerated any approach 
to sentimentality, thought so fiery a production ought to have a cold 
epilogue to counteract it. " Do you believe," he wrote, " that any 

• Miscellanies, voL i, p. 272. 

t While in Italy, he received a letter from a young Frenchman, who said : " Qui, 
Monfiieur, je tous dois la meilleure action de ma vie, par consequent, la racine de 
plusieuTB autres, et pour moi votre livre est bon. Si j'avais le bonheur d'habiter le 
mdme pays que vous, j'irais vous embrasser, et vous dire mon secret ; mais mal- 
heureusement j'en habite un o^ personne ne croirait au motif qui vient de me 
determiner h cette d-marche. Soyez satis&it. Monsieur, d'avoir pu K trois cents 
lieues de votre demenre nunener le. ocDur d'un jeune homme k Thonndtete et Ik la 
vertu, toute une famille va dtre tranquille, et mon coeur jouit d'une bonne action." 

Let me not forget the visit of his English admirer, who accosted him on the stairs 
with " You must be the author of Werther !" adding that he could not wait a mo- 
ment longer, all he wanted to say was this, " I wiU not repeat what you must have 
heard from thousands, for indeed your work has not affected me so much as it has 
others ; but when I think what it required to write such a book, I am lost in as- 
tonishment.'.' Having eased his mind of this weight, he wished Goethe a hearty 
fiekrewell, and ran down stairs. 

A similar story is told by Schiller in a letter to Kdmer. " A shrivelled figure 
entered my room, and asked me if I was not Councillor Schiller. I replied in the 
aflhrmative. ' I heard that you were here, and could not restrain myself from seeing 
the author of Don Carlos.* ' Oehorsamer Diener ! your most obedient servant,' said 
I; ' whom have I the honour of addressing P* ' I have not the happiness of being 
known to you. My name is Vulpius.' ' I am indebted to you for your politeness ; 
unluckily* I have an engagement.' ' Oh, sir, I beg you won't mention it. I am 
quite satisfied with having seen you.' " — BriefwecTisel, i, p. 105. 

At the risk of swelling this note to unreasonable dimensions, I must quote a pas- 
sage from Pliny's Letters, which records a similar anecdote : " Nunquamne legisti 
Gaditanum quemdam Titi Livii nomine gloriaque commotum ad visendum eum ab 
ultimo terrarum orbe venisse, statimque ut viderat abiisse ?" — Lib. ii, Ep. iii. 


Roman or Grecian youth would thus and therefore have committed 
suicide ? Certainly not. They knew how to guard themselves from 
the extravagancies of love, and in*the days of Socrates such an cf 
l/76i)T09 Koro^ whom Tt ToXfi^v Traph ^vciv impelled^ would scarcely 
be pardoned even by a girl. Such Uttle-great questionable originals 
only suit our Christian culture, which knows so well how to trans- 
form a corporeal necessity into a spiritual perfection. So, worthy 
Groethe, let us have a concluding chapter ; and the more cynical the 
better.^'* This is a misstatement of the whole question. /It is not 
the extravagance of love which causes Werther's suicide : it is his 
own diseased moral nature which makes life insupportable, and which 
makiBS unhappy love the spark that fires the train./ Moreover, one 
reads with surprise this reference to Greek and Roman life, coming 
from so admirable a scholar as Lessing. He forgot that Sophocles, 
in the Antigone, makes an unhappy lover commit suicide because his 
mistress is lost to him. He forgot, also, that the Stoics introduced 
the "fashion^' of suicide into Rome; and in Alexandria the Epi- 
cureans established a '^society for the suppression of life^* — the 
awairoOavovfievov — where, having exhausted every pleasure, the 
members assembled at a feast, the wine-cup went freely round, and 
in the midst of this orgie they quietly put an end to their con- 
temptible existences : — ^a new variation of the conversazione, at 
which, instead of music and aesthetic tea, the guests were invited to 
supper and suicide. 

The Berlin Aristarchus — ^Nicolai — an upright, but narrow-minded 
man, and a great enemy of all schwa/rmerei, wrote by way of criticism 
a parody called the Joys of Young Werther, in which sentimentalism 
is ridiculed: — ^Werther shoots himself with chicken's blood only, 
and marries Charlotte ^^ and Uves happy all the rest of his life.'' 

Goethe's answer to this was " a burlesque poem called Nicolai at 
Werther^s grave, which, however, cannot be communicated." This 
poem has been recovered and printed by Boas.f It is exceedingly 
coarse, and not very humorous. The admirers of Werther, of course, 
are greatly incensed against Nicolai; but they forget that Nicolai 
never denied the talent of the work, he only echoed Lessing's objec- 
tion to its tendency. His criticism, moreover, was but a feather in 
the scale against the praise which poured in from all sides. 

* LE88INO : Werke, t, 225^ Letter to Eechenberg. 

It ia surmised that Lessing's objections to Werther were sharpened by his dislike 
at reconiising his young Mend, Jerusalem, thus brought into a fiction. A letter 
from Weisse to Garve, quoted by Afpbll, Werther und seine Zeit, p. 60, confirms 

t NcLchtr&ge nu Qoeihe'a Werke : Lief, i, p. 12. 

1774.] WERTEER, 155 

While the public was reading the tragic story of Werther through 
fast flowing tears^ a painful sense of indignation rose in the breasts 
of Kestner and Charlotte at seeing themselves thus dragged into 
publicity, their story falsified. The narrative was in many respects 
too close to reality not to be very offensive in its deviations from 
reality. The figures were unmistakeable; and yet they were not the 
real figures. The eager public soon found out who were the principal 
personages, and that a real history was at the bottom of the romance; 
but as the whole truth could not be known, the Kestners found 
themselves in a very false light. They were hurt by this indiscretion 
of their friend; more hurt perhaps than they chose to confess ; and 
we may read, in the following . fragment of the sketch of the letter 
sent by Kestner on receipt of the book, the accents of an offended 
friend whose pride restrains the full expression of his anger : 

''Your Werther might have given me great pleasure, since it 
could have reminded me of many interesting scenes and incidents. 
But as it is, it has in certain respects given me little edification. 
You know I like to speak my mind. 

'' It is true, you have woven something new into each person, or 
have fused several persons into one. 60 far good. But if in this 
interweaving and fusing you had taken counsel of your heart, you 
would not have so prostituted the real persons whose features you 
borrow. You wished to draw from nature, that your picture might 
be truthful; and yet you have combined so much that is contra- 
dictory, that you have missed the very mark at which you aimed. 
The distinguished author will revolt against this judgment, but I 
appeal to reality and truth itself when I pronounce that the artist 
has failed. The real Lotte would, in many instances, be grieved if 
she were like the Lotte you have there painted. I know well that 
it is said to be a character compounded of two, but the Mrs. H. 
whom you have partly inwoven was also incapable of what you 
attribute to your heroine. But this expenditure of fiction was not at 
all necessary to your end, to nature and truth, for it was without any 
such behaviour on the part of a woman — ^a behaviour which must 
ever be dishonourable even to a more than ordinary woman — that 
Jerusalem shot himself. 

'' The real Lotte, whose friend you nevertheless wish to be, is in 
your picture, which contains too much of her not to suggest her 
strongly : is, I say — but no, I will not say it, it pains me already too 
much only to think it. And Letters husband — ^you called him your 
friend, and God knows that he was so — is with her. 

156 LIFE And works of GOETHE. [Book hi. 

" The miserable creature of an Albert ! In spite of its being an 
alleged fancy picture and not a portrait, it also has such traits of an 
original (only external traits, it is true, thank Grod, only external), 
that it is easy to guess the real person. And if you wanted to 
have him act so, need you have made him such a blockhead ? that 
forthwith you might step forward and say, see what a fine fellow 
I am !" 

Kestner here touches on a point of morality in literature worth 
consideration. While emphatically declaring that the artist must 
take his materials from reality, must employ his own experience, and 
draw the characters he has really known, we must as emphatically 
declare that he is bound to represent his experience in forms 
sufficiently diflFerent from the reality to prevent the public reading 
actual histories beneath his invention, and recognising the persons 
he has employed as lay figures, whenever those persons are assigned 
parts which they would reject. There is, of course, great difficulty 
in keeping to truth while avoiding the betrayal of actual occurrences; 
but it is a difficulty which is commanded by morality. 

Goethe was evidently astounded at the effect his book had pro- 
duced on his friends : '' I must at once write to you, my dear and 
angry friends, and free my heart. The thing is done ; the book is 
out ; forgive me if you can. I will hear nothing till the event has 
proved how exaggerated your anxiety is, and till you have more 
truly felt, in the book itself, the innocent mingling of fiction and 
truth. Thou hast, dear Kestner, exhausted everything, cut away all 
the ground of my excuse, and left me nothing to say ; yet I know 
not, my heart has still more to say, although I cannot express it. 
I am silent, but the sweet presentiment I must still retain, and I 
hope eternal Fate has that in store for me which will bind us yet 
closer one to the other. Yes, dear ones, I who am so bound to you 
by love, must still remain debtor to you and your children for the 
uncomfortable hours which my — ^name it as you will — ^has given you. 
.... And now, my dear ones, when anger rises within you, think, 
oh think only that your old Goethe, ever and ever, and now more 
than ever, is your own.'' 

Their anger fell. They saw that he had committed an indiscre- 
tion, but had done no more. They wrote forgiveness, as we .gather 
from this letter Goethe sent on the 21st of November : 

'' Here I have thy letter, Kestner ! On a strange desk, in a 
painter's studio, for yesterday I began to paint in oil, I have thy 
letter, and must give thee my thanks ! Thanks, dear friend ! Thou 

1774.] WERTHER, 157 

art ever the same good soul ! O that I could spring on thy neck, 
throw myself at Lotte's feet, one, one minute, and all, all that should 
be done away with, explained, which I could not make clear with 
quires of paper ! O ye unbelieving ones ! I could exclaim. Ye 
of little faith ! Could you feel the thousandth part of what Werther 
is to a thousand hearts, you would not reckon the sacrifice you have 
made towards it I Here is a letter, read it, and send me word 
quickly what thou thihkest of it, what impression it makes on thee. 
Thou sendest me Hennings' letter ; he does not condemn me ; he 
excuses me. Dear brother Kestner ! if you vidll wait, you shall be 
contented. I would not, to save my own life, call back Werther, 
and believe me, believe in me, thy anxieties, thy gravamina will 
vanish like phantoms of the night if thou hast patience ; and then, 
between this and a year, I promise you in the most affectionate, pe- 
culiar, fervent manner, to disperse, as if it were a mere north-wind 
fog and mist, whatever may remain of suspicion, misinterpretation, 
etc., in the gossiping public, though it is a herd of swine. Werther 
must — ^must be ! You do not feel him, you only feel me and ymir^ 
selves; and that which you call stvxik on, and in spite of you, and 
others, is interwoven. If I live, it is thee I have to thank for it ; 
thus thou art not Albert. And thus — 

" Give Lotte a warm greeting for me, and say to her : ' To know 
that your name is uttered by a thousand hallowed lips with reverence, 
is surely an equivalent for anxieties which would scarcely, apart 
from anything else, vex a person long in common Ufe, where one is 
at the mercy of every tattler.' 

"If you are generous and do not worry me, I will send you letters, 
cries, sighs after Werther, and if you have faith, beUeve that all will 
be well, and gossip is nothing, and weigh well your philosopher's 
letter, which I have kissed. 

" O then ! — ^hast not felt how the man embraces thee, consoles 
thee, and in thy — ^in Lotte's worth, finds consolation enough under 
the wretchedness which has terrified you even in the fiction. Lotte, 
farewell, — Kestner, love me, and do not worry me.'' 

The pride of the author in his darling breaks out in this letter, 
now his friends have forgiven him. We must admit that Kestner 
had reason to be annoyed; the more so as his friends, identifying him 
with the story, wrote sympathetically about it. He had to reply 
to Hennings on the subje.ct, and in telling him the true story, begged 
him to correct the false reports. He says : ^ In the first part of 
Werther, Werther is Goethe himself. In Lotte and Albert he has 


borrowed traits from us, my wife and myself. Many of the scenes 
are quite true, and yet partly altered ; others are, at least in our his- 
tory, unreal. For the sake of the second part, and in order to pre- 
pare for the death of Werther, he has introduced various things into 
the first- part which do not at all belong to us. For example, Lotte 
has never either with Goethe or with any one else stood in the inti- 
mate relation which is there described ; in this we have certainly 
great reason to be oflTended with him, for several accessory circum- 
stances are too true and too well known for people not to point to 
us. He regrets it now, but of what use is that to us ? It is true 
he has a great regard for my wife j but he ought to have depicted 
her more faithfully in this point, that she was too wise and deUcate 
ever to let him go so far as is represented in the first part. She 
behaved to him in such way as to make her far dearer to me than 
before, if this had been possible. Moreover, our engagement was 
never made pubUc, though not, it is true, kept a secret : still she was 
too bashful ever to confess it to any one. And there was no engage- 
ment between us but that of hearts. It was not till shortly before 
my departure (when Goethe had already been a year away from Wetz- 
lar at Frankfurt, and the disguised Werther had been dead half a 
year) that we were married. After the lapse of a year, since our 
residence here, we have become father and mother. The dear boy 
lives still, and gives us, thank God, much joy. For the rest, there 
is in Werther much of Goethe's character and manner of thinking. 
Lotto's portrait is completely that of my wife. Albert might have 
been made a little more ardent. The second part of Werther has 
nothing whatever to do with us. . . When Goethe had printed his 
book, he sent us an early copy, and thought we should fall into rap- 
tures with what he had done. But we at once saw what would be 
the efiect, and your letter confirms our fears. I wrote very angrily 
to him. He then for the first time saw what he had done ; but the 
book was printed, and he hoped our fears were idle." In another 
letter to the same, Kestner says : " You have no idea what a man he 
is. But when his great fire has somewhat burnt itself out, then we 
shall all have the greatest joy in him." 

We have thus brought to a close the history of Werther, its com- 
position and eflTect : a history so important in the biography of its 
author, that we might have been excused for having devoted so much 
space to it, even if the letters, which have furnished the evidence, 
did not throw so strong a light upon a period very inadequately re- 
presented in the Wahrhsit und Dichtung, 

1774.] WERTHER. 159 

On the 28th August 1849, the hundredth anniversary of the great 
poet's birth, when all Germany joined in a jubilee, a small marble 
monument was erected in the well-known Wertherplatz without the 
Wetzlar gates, where Goethe was wont to sit and muse ; three lime 
trees are planted round it, bearing this inscription : 








Goethe was now at the perilous juncture in an author's career, when 
having just achieved a splendid success, he is in danger either of 
again snatching at laurels in presumptuous haste, or of suffering 
himself to repose upon the laurels he has won, talking of greatness, 
instead of learning to be great. Both perils he avoided. He neither 
traded on his renown, nor conceived that his education .was com- 
plete. Wisely refraining from completing fresh important works, 
he kept up the practice of his art by trifles, and the education of his 
genius by serious studies. 

Among these trifles are Clatrigo, the Jahrmarktsfest zu Plunder' 
swdlen, and the Prolog zu Bahrdt's Neuesten Offenharumgen. For 
the composition of Glavigo we must retrace our steps a little, and 
once more see him in the Frankfurt circle during the summer of 1 774, 
that is, before the publicatwn of Werther, which was delayed till 
October. In his sister's pleasant circle we have already noticed 
Antoinette Gerock, who was fascinating enough to fix his attentions. 
They were accustomed to meet, once a week, in picnics and pleasure 
parties ; at one of these it was agreed to institute a marriage lottery.* 
He thus speaks of it : ^' Every week lots were drawn to determine 
the couples who should be symbolically wedded ; for it was supposed 
that every one knew well enough how lovers should conduct them- 
selves, but few had any proper conceptions of the requisite de- 
meanour between man and wife. General rules were laid down td 
the effect that these wedded couples should preserve a polite indif- 
ference, not sitting near each other, nor speaking to each other too 
often, much less indulging in anything like caresses. At the same 
time, side by side with this polite indifference, this well-bred calm, 
anything like discord or suAjticion was to be sedulously avoided; 
and whoever succeeded in gaining the affections of his wife without 
using the importunities of Br lover, was supposed to have achieved 
their ideal. Much sportive confusion and agreeable pleasantry of 
course arose from this sbheme.'' Strangely enough, to him it fell 

1774.] TEE LITERARY LION. 161 

thrice to have the same girl appointed by hazard to fill the place of 
hia wife. When fate had brought them together for the third 
time^ it was resolved unanimously that they should be no longer 
separated^ that heaven had spoken^ and that hereafter they were to 
consider themselves as man and wife^ and not to draw lots as the 
others did. At these reunions something new was generally read 
aloud by one of the party. One evening Goethe brought with him 
as a novelty the '' M4moire" of Beaumarchais. During the conver- 
sation which ensued^ Goethe's partner said to him : '' If I were thy 
liege lady^ and not thy wife^ I would command thee to change this 
memoir into a play, to which it seems well suited.'* He answered : 
'' That thou mayst see, my love, that liege lady and wife are one, I 
here undertake that this day week I will read a play on this very 
matter.'' So bold a promise excited astonishment, but he resolved 
on fulfilling it. " What, in such cases," he says, '' is termed inven- 
tion, was with me spontaneous. While escorting my titulary wife 
home I was silent ; and on her inquiring the cause, I told her that ' 
I was thinking out the play, and had already got into the middle of 
it — ^intending to show her how gladly I would do anything to please 
her. Upon which she pressed my hand, and I snatched a kiss. 
' Thou must not step out of thy character,' she exclaimed ; ' they 
say it is not proper for married folks to be loving.' ' Let them say 
what they please,' I replied, ' we will have it our own way.' " 

He confesses that before reading the memoir aloud, the subject 
had appeared to him eminently dramatic ; though, without such a 
stimulus as he had received, this piece, like so many others, would 
have remained among the number of possible creations. The only 
novelty in it was his mode of treating the villains. He was weaiy 
of those characters so frequently represented, who, from revenge, or 
from hate, or from trivial motives, ruin a noble nature; and he 
wished in Carlos to show the working of clear good sense, against 
passion and inclination. Justified by tjie precedent of Shakspeare, 
he translated, word for word, such portions of the memoir as were 
dramatic ; borrowing the denouement from an English baUad.* He 
was ready before the week expired, and read the piece to a delighted 

A few words on this memoir may be useful. Beaumarchais had 
two sisters living in Madrid, one married to an architect, the other, 
Marie, engaged to Clavijo, a young author without fortune. No 
sooner had Clavijo obtained the office he had long solicited, than he 

* So he says ; but his memoiy deceived him. The ballad waa an old German 
ballad. Das Lied vom Herren und der Magd. See Herder* s Nachlass, i, 159. 



refused to fulfil his promise. Beaumarchais hurried to Madrid ; his 
object was twofold : to save the reputation of his sister^ and to put a 
little speculation of his own on foot. He sought Clavijo, and by his 
sangfroid and courage extorted from him a written avowal of his con- 
temptible conduct. No sooner is this settled, than Clavijo, alarmed 
at the consequences, solicits a reconciliation with Marie, offering to 
marry her. Beaumarchais consents, but just as the marriage is 
about to take place he learns that Clavijo is secretly conspiring 
against him, accusing him of having extorted the marriage by force, 
in consequence of which he has procured an order from the govern- 
ment to expel Beaumarchais from Madiid. Irritated at such villainy, 
Beaumarchais goes to the ministers, reaches the king, and avenges 
himself by getting Clavijo dismissed from his post. This is, in brief, 
the substance of the M^moire which appeared in February 1774. 
The adventure occurred in 1764, so that Clavijo, who subsequently 
became a distinguished writer, might have seen himself not only 
held up to odium in the sparkling pages of Beaumarchais, but re- 
presented on the stage of every German theatre. He died in 1806, 
vice-president of the Natural History Society in Madrid, having 
previously translated Buffon, and edited the Mercurio historico y pO" 
litico de Madrid, We must suppose that Goethe knew nothing of 
the existence of Clavijo, when he wrote the drama. 

With Beaumarchais in our hands it is curious to read Glavigo, 
which is as close a reproduction as the dramatic form admits; and 
is an evidence that Goethe did wisely in not at once proceeding to 
complete Faust (fragments of which were written) or Coesar, He 
would infalliably have repeated himself. He has repeated him- 
self in Glavigo : the external circumstances are changed, but the 
experience is the same. Clavigo is another Weislingen, and was 
meant to be so : "I have written a tragedy,^' Goethe writes to Schon- 
bom, " Glavigo, a modem anecdote, dramatised with the greatest 
simplicity and heartfelt truth. My hero is an irresolute, half-great, 
half-little man, the pendant to Weislingen, or rather Weislingen 
himself as the chief person.^' He has well pourtrayed the weak am- 
bitious nature of one who hopes to rise still higher in the world, but 
feels his career obstructed by a passion which made him happy in 
the obscure days of penniless youth. The popular author and court 
favourite aspires to some woman of rank ; an aspiration in which he 
is encouraged by his friend Carlos, who mockingly strips off the 
garlands with which the poet's imagination had decked his mistress. 

Marie is a weak, sensitive creature, without much individuality, 
find is perhaps the poorest sketch Goethe has given of a woman. 

1774.] THE LITERARY LION. 163 

There is, however, one little touch which shows the poet ; it is a 
sentence which escapes Marie, when Clavigo returns repentant to 
her feet, appealing to her affection : she throws herself on his neck, 
exclaiming, '^ Ah, sister, whence knows he that I love him so — woher 
weiss er doss ich ihn so liebe I*' 

Marie is overjoyed at Clavigo's return, but her joy is brief. The 
demon of ambition, aided by the cold sarcasms of Carlos, (in whom 
we see the germ of Mephistopheles) once more troubles Clavigo, 
and turns him from a marriage so ill suited to his hopes. Carlos 
bitterly, but truly, says to him, " There is nothing in the world so 
pitiable as an undecided man, who wavers between two feelings, 
hoping to reconcile them." He suggests that Beaumarchais should 
be assassinated. " He who orders the assassination of the brother, 
pantomimically intimates that he will have nothing to do with the 
sister;" adds Carlos, quite in the Mephistophelic tone. They de- 
termine on a contemptible plan. Beaumarchais is to be imprisoned 
for having insulted and threatened Clavigo imder his own roof. 
The order for arrest arrives, and Marie dies broken-hearted at the 
treachery of her lover. 

Up to this point — short at least of the death of Marie — Beaumar- 
chais^ Mirtioire has been faithfully followed; a fifth act is added, 
with a denouement to fit it for the stage. 

Powerful as this scene is in theatrical effect, one cannot but admit 
that aesthetically it is poor and almost commonplace. The clumsiness 
by which the meeting is contrived has been noticed by Rosenkranz.* 
Clavigo is seeking Carlos ; he orders the servant who lights the way, 
not to pass through the street where the Beaumarchais family resides, 
yet the servant actually leads him there because it is the shorter 
route. The whole tone of this fifth act is not in harmony with what 
precedes. The act is grafted on — ^it does not grow out of— the 

As a stage play the interest is great : the situations are effective ; 
the dramatic collision perfect ; the plot is clearly and rapidly evolved ; 
the language vigorous, passionate, and pointed. But it must not be 
tried by any high standard. Merck, amdous about his friend's repu- 
tation, woidd not consent to judge the play according to the theatre- 
standard, but exclaimed, '' Such trash as this you must not write 
again ; others can do that !" Goethe says, that in this Merck was 
wrong, and for the first time did him an injury. '' We should not 
in all things transcend the notions which men have already formed ; it 
is right that much should be done in accordance with the common 
* Ooethe und Seine Werke, p. 185. 



way of thinking. Had I written a dozen Buch pieces (and it would 
have been easy to do so with a little stimulus), three or four of them 
would perhaps have kept their place upon the stage/' 

This can scarcely be accepted as conclusive reasoning. Merck 
might have replied, ' Perhaps so ; but you have genius fit for higher 
things than stage plays.* Nevertheless, as before hinted, I think 
Goethe was right in his course, although the reasons he alleges are 
unsatisfactory. Clcmgo, like the other trifles he composed at this 
period, must be regarded as the sketches with which an artist fills his 
portfolio, not the works which are to brighten galleries. The im- 
pulse to create was imperious; if trifles were demanded, he created 
trifles. His immense activity was forced to expend itself on minor 
works, because he dimly felt himself unripe for greater works. 

He was beginning to feel himself a man of consequence ; the 
notable men of the day eagerly sought his acquaintance. Among 
these men we must note Klopstock, Lavater, Basedow, Jacobi, and the 
Stolbergs. Correspondence led to personal intercourse. Klopstock 
arrived in Frankfurt in this October 1774, just before Werflier ap- 
peared. Goethe saw him, read the fragments of Faust to him, and 
discussed skating with him. But the great religious poet was too 
far removed from the strivings of his young rival to conceive that 
attachment for him which he felt for men like the Stolbergs, or to 
inspire Goethe with any keen sympathy. 

In June, Lavater also came to Frankfurt. This was a few months 
before Klopstock's visit. He had commenced a correspondence with 
Goethe on the occasion of the Brief e des Pastors. Those were great 
days of correspondence. Letters were written to be read in circles, 
and were shown about like the last new poem. Lavater pestered his 
friends for their portraits, and for ideal portraits (according to their 
conception) of our Saviour, all of which were destined for the work 
on Physiognomy on which he was then engaged. The artist who 
took Goethe's portrait sent Lavater the portrait of Bahrdt in- 
stead, to see what he would make of it ; the physiognomist was not 
taken in ; he stoutly denied the possibility of such a resemblance. 
Yet when he saw the actual Goethe he was not satisfied. He gazed 
in astonishment, exclaiming " Bist's ? Art thou he V^ *^ Ich bin's. 
I am he,'' was the answer; and the two embraced each other. 
Still the physiognomist was dissatisfied. '' I answered him with my 
native and acquired realism, that as God had willed to make me 
what I was, he, Lavater, must even so accept me." 

The first surprise over, they began to converse on the weightiest 
topics. Their sympathy was much greater than appears in Goethe's 


1774.] THE LITERARY LION. 165 

narrative, written many years after the characters of both had de- 
veloped themselves : Goethe's into what we shall subsequently see ; 
Lavater's into that superstitious dogmatism and priestly sophistica- 
tion which exasperated and alienated many of his friends. 

Lavater forms a curious figure in the history of those days : a com- 
pound of the intolerant priest, and the factitious sentimentalist. He 
had fine talents, and a streak of genius, but he was ruined by vanity. 
In his autobiographic sketch* he has represented himself indicating 
as a child the part he was to play as a man. Like many other children, 
he formed for himself a peculiar and intimate relation with Grod, which 
made him look upon his playfellows with scorn and pity, because they 
did not share his '' need and use of God.'' He prayed for wonders, 
and the wonders came* God corrected his school exercises. God con- 
cealed his many faults, and brought to light his virtuous deeds. In 
fact, Lavater was said to have been " from the beginning the friend of 
Lies, who stooped to the basest flatteries to gain influence." To this 
flattering cringing softness he united the spirit of priestly domina- 
tion. His first works made a great sensation.- In 1 769 he translated 
Bonnet's Palingdn^sWy adding notes in a strain of religious senti- 
mentalism then very acceptable. At a time when the critics were 
rehabihtating Homer and the early singers, it was natural that the 
religious world should attempt a restoration of the early Apostolic \ 
spirit. At a time when belief in poetic inspiration was a first article 
of the creed, belief in prophetic inspiration found eager followers. 
I have already touched on the sentimental extravagance of the time. 
The lovely Countess Branconi writes to him : ^' O toi ch^ri pour la 
vie, I'&me de mon &me ! Ton mouchoir, tes cheveux, sent pour moi 
ce que mes jarreti^res sent pour toi !" etc. which is surpassed by what 
he allowed to be addressed to him by another admirer : "Oh that I 
could lie on thy breast in Sabbath holy evening stillness — oh thou 
angel!" This kind of rhodomontade went all round. They wept, 
and were wept on. 

At the time of his arrival in Frankfurt, Lavater was in the first 
flush of renown. Goethe was peculiarly attracted to him, not only 
by the singularity of his character, but by a certain community of 
religious sentimenL Community of creed there was not, and could 
not be. What Goethe felt we may gather from his attachment to 
Fraulein von Klettenberg ; what he thought may be seen in such 
letters as this to Pfenninger, a friend of Lavater's : " Believe me, 
dear brother, the time will come when we shall understand each 
* See Gesskxb's BiograpUe Lavaiera, 



other. You talk to me as a sceptic, who wishes to understa/ndr^to 
have all demonstrated — who has had no experience. The contrary of 
all this is the fact. Am I not more resigned in matters of Under- 
standing and Demonstration than yon are ? I am, perhaps, a fool to 
express myself in your language to please yon. I ought, by a purely 
experimental psychology, to place my inmost. being before you to 
show that I am a man, and hence can only feel as other men feel, and 
that all which appears contradiction between us is only dispute about 
words, arising from my inability to feel things under other combina- 
tions than those actually felt by me, and hence, in expressing their 
relation to me, I name them differently, which has been the eternal 
source of controversy, and will for ever remain so. And yet you 
always want to oppress me with evidences. Wherefore ? Do I need 
evidence of my own existence ? Evidence that I feel ? I only 
treasure, love, and demand evidences which convince me that thou- 
sands (or even one) have felt before me that which strengthens and 
invigorates me. And thus to me the word of man becomes like unto 
the word of God. With my whole soul, I throw myself upon the 
neck of my brother : Moses, Prophet, Evangelist, Apostle, Spinoza^ 
or Machiavelli I To each, however, I would say : Dear friend, it is 
with you as it is with me. Certain details you apprehend clearly and 
powerfully, but the whole can no more be conceived by you than, 
by me.'' 

He names Spinoza in this veiy remarkable passage; and the 
whole letter seems likQ a reproduction of the passage in the Ethics, 
where that great thinker, anticipating modem psychology, shows 
'' that each person judges of things according to the disposition of 
his brain, or rather accepts the affections of his imagination as real 
things. It is no wonder therefore (as we may note in passing) that 
so many controversies have arisen among men, and that these con- 
troversies have at last given birth to scepticism. For although 
human bodies are alike in many things, there are more in which 
they differ, and thus what to one appears good, to another appears 
evil; what to one appears order, to another appears confusion; what 
to one is pleasant, to another is unpleasant.'^* 

It is unnecessary to interrupt the narrative here by more closely 
scrutinising his studies of Spinoza; enough, if the foregoing citation 

* " Que omnia satis ostendimt^ unumquemque pro dispotitione cerebri de rebus 
judicasBe, vel potiiu imaginationis affectiones pro rebos aooepisse. Quare non mirom 
est (ut hoc etiam obiter notemuB) quod inter homines tot, quot experimur, contro- 
versuB ortsB sint ex q^uibns tandem Scepticismtis. Nam quamvis humana corpora in 
multufl conveniunt, in plurimis tamen discrepant, et ideo id quod uni bonum alteri 
malum videtur; quod uni ordinatum, altexi confnsum : quod uni gratum, alteii in- 
gratum est/'-^Ethicea : Para i. Append, 

1774.] THE LITERARY LION. 167 

has made present to our minds the probable parentage of Goethe's 
opinions. The contrast between Lavater's Christianity and the 
Christianity of Fraulein von Klettenberg interested him, and gave 
him matter for thought. He agreed somewhat with both, but he 
agreed perfectly with neither. The difference between Faith and-> 
Knowledge he thus reconciled : " In Faith everything depends on I 
the fact of believing ; what we believe is quite secondaiy. Faith is 
a profound sense of security, springing from confidence in the All- 
powerftd. Inscrutable Being. The strength of this confidence is the » 
main point. But what we think of this Being depends on other 
faculties, or even on other circumstances, and is altogether in- 
different. Faith is a holy vessel, into which every man may pour his 
feelings, his understanding, and his imagination, as entirely as he 
can. KJnowledge is the antipode of Faith. Therein the point is not 
whether we know, but what we know, Iww much we know, and h&w 
well we know it. Hence men may dispute about knowledge, because 
it can be widened, corrected ; but not about Faith.'' 

So strong was the attraction of Lavater's society that Goethe 
accompanied him to Ems. The journey was charming; beautiful 
summer weather, and Lavater's cheerful gaiety formed pleasant 
accompaniments to their religious discussions. On returning to 
Frankfurt, another and very different celebrity was there to distract 
his attention — Basedow, the educatioii reformer. No greater con- 
trast to Lavater could have been picked out of the celebrities of that 
day. Lavater was handsome, clean, cheerful, flattering, insinuating, 
devout ; Basedow ugly, dirty among the dirty, sarcastic, domineer- 
ing, and aggressively heterodox. One tried to restore Apostolic 
Christianity; the other could not restrain the most insolent sarcasms 
on the Bible, the Trinity, and every form of Christian creed. One . 
set up as a Prophet, the other as a Pedagogue. 

Basedow (bom 1 723) was also early in indicating his future part. 
At school the wild and dirty boy manifested rebellious energy 
against, all system and all method; studied in a desultory, onmi- 
vorous manner, as if to fit himself for everything; ran away from 
home, and became a lackey in a nobleman's house ; caught up 
Rousseau's doctrine about a state of nature, which he applied to 
Education ; wrote endless works, or rather incessant repetitions of 
one work ; shouted with such lusty lungs that men could not but 
hear him ; appealed to the nation for support in his philanthropic 
schemes; collected "a rent" from philanthropists and dupes; attacked 
established institutions, and parenthetically all Christian tenets; and 
proved himself a man of restless energy, and of vast and compre- 



tensive ignorance. He made considerable noise in the world ; and 
in private lived somewhat the life of a restless hog who has taken to 
philanthropy and freethinking. 

Much as such a character was opposed to his own, Goethe, eager 
and inquiring, felt an attraction towards it, as towards a character 
to study. Like many other studies, this had its drawbacks. He 
was forced to endure the incessant smoking, and incessant sarcasms 
of the dirty educationist. The stench he endured with firmness \ 
the anti-Christian tirades he answered with paradoxes wilder than 
any he opposed. ''Such a splendid opportunity of exercising, if not 
of elevating, my mind,'' he says, " was not to be thrown away ; so 
prevailing on my father and friends to undertake my law business, 
I once more set off for the Bhine in Basedow's company." Basedow 
filled the carriage with smoke, and killed the time with discussions. 
On the way they fell in with Lavater, and the three visited several 
chateaux, especially those of noble ladies, eveiywhere anxious to 
receive the literary Lions. Goethe, we may parenthetically note, is 
in error when he says that he was on this voyage greatly pestered 
by the women wanting to know all about the truth of Werfher; 
the fact being that Werther did not appear until the following 
October ; for although the exigencies of my narrative have caused a 
certain anticipation in chronology, this journey with Lavater and 
Basedow, here made to follow the publication of Werther, came before 
it in Goethe's life. If we are not to believe that the women crowded 
round him with questions about Lotte, we can readily believe that 
children crowded round him, begging him to tell them stories. 

Wild and '' genius-like" was his demeanour. '' Basedow and I," 
he says, " seemed to be ambitious of proving who could behave the 
most outrageously." Very characteristic is the glimpse we catch of 
him quitting the ball-room, after a heating dance, and rushing up to 
Basedow's room. The Philanthropist did not go to bed. He threw 
himself in his clothes upon the bed, and there, in a room full of 
tobacco smoke and bad air, dictated to his scribe. When fatigue 
overcame him, he slept awhile, his scribe remaining there, pen in 
hand, awaiting the awakening of the Philanthropist, who, on open- 
ing his eyes, at once resumed the flow of his dictation. Into such a 
room sprang the dance-heated youth, began a fierce discussion on 
some problem previously mooted between them, hurried off again to 
look into the eyes of some charming partner, and before the door 
closed, heard Basedow recommence dictating. 

This union of philosophy with amusement, of restless theorising 
with animal spirits, indicates the tone of his mind. ''I am contented," 

1774.] THE LITERARY LION. 169 

he said to Lavater, '' I am happy. That I feel ; and yet the whole 
centre of my joy is an overflowing yearning towards something 
which I have not, something which my soul perceives dimly/' He 
could reach that " something '' neither through the pious preaching 
of Lavater, nor through the aggressive preaching of Basedow. 
Very graphic and ludicrous is the picture he gives of his sitting 
like a citizen of the world between a prophet on the right and a 
prophet on the left hand — 

Prophete rechts, Prophete links. 
Das Welt-Eind in der Mitten— 

quietly eating a chicken while Lavater explains to a country parson 
the mystery of the Revelations, and Basedow astonishes a dancing- 
master with a scornful exposure of the inutility of baptism.* 

Nor could he find this ^' something^' in Jacobi, with whom he now 
came into sentimental intimacy. He could to some extent sympa- 
thise with Jacobins sentimental cravings, and philosophic, religious 
aspirations, for he was bitten with the Wertherism of the epoch. 
He could gaze with him in uneasy ecstacy upon the moonlight qui- 
vering on the silent Rhine, and pour forth the songs which were 
murmuring within his breast. He could form a friendship, believing 
it to rest upon an eternal basis of perfect sympathy ; but the inward 
goad which drove him onwards and onwards, was not to be eradicated 
until fresh experience had brought about fresh metamorphoses in his 
development. It is the Youth we have before us here, the Youth in 
his struggles and many-wandering aims, not the Man grown into 

Jacobi thought that in Goethe he had at length found the man 
his heart needed, whose influence could sustain and direct him. 
'^ The more I consider it,'' he wrote to Wieland, '' the more intensely 
do I feel how impossible it is for one who has not seen and heard 
Goethe, to write a word about this extraordinary creation of God's. 
One needs be with him but an hour to see that it is utterly absurd 
to expect him to think and act otherwise than as he does. I do not 
mean that there is no possibility of an improvement in him; but 
nothing else is possible with his nature, which developes itself as the 
flower does, as the seed ripens, as the tree grows into the air and 
crowns itself." 

Goethe's wonderful personality seems almost everywhere to pro- 
duce a similar impression. Heinse, the author of Ardingliello, writes 
of him at this period to Gleim : '^ Goethe was with us, a beautiful 

* See the poem Dind su CohlentM. 



youth of five-and-twenty, who is all genius and strength from head 
to foot, his heart full of feeling, his soul full of fire and eagle-winged ; 
I know no man in the whole History of Literature who at such an 
age can be compared to him in fulness and completeness of genius/' 
Those, and they are the mass, who think of him as the calm and 
stately minister, the old Jupiter throned in Weimar, will feel some 
diJBSculty perhaps in recognising the young Apollo of this period. 
But it must be remembered that not only was he young, impetuous, 
bursting into life, and trying his eagle wings with wanton confidence 
of strength ; he was, moreover, a Bhinelander, with the gay blood 
of that race stimulated by the light and generous wine of the Rhine 
— ^not a Northern muddled with beer. When I contrast young 
Goethe with a Herder, for example, it is always as if a flask of 
Rhenish gUttered beside a seidel-of Bavarian beer. 

Such answer to his aspirations as the youth could at this period 
receive, he found in Spinoza. In his father's library there was a 
little book written against Spinoza, one of the many foolish re- 
futations which that grand old Hebrew's misunderstood system 
called forth. " It made little impression on me, for I hated con- 
troversies, and always wanted to know what a thinker thought, and 
not what another conceived he ought to have thought,^* It made him, 
however, once more read the article Spinoza, in Baylors Dictionary, 
which he found pitiable — as indeed it is. If a philosophy is to be 
judged by its fruits, the philosophy which guided so great and so 
virtuous a Ufe as that of Spinoza, could not, Goethe thought, deserve 
the howls of execration which followed Spinozism. He procured the 
Opera Posthuma and studied them ; with what fruit let the following 
confession indicate. He is speaking of his new friendship with 
Jacobi : ^^ The thoughts which Jacobi imparted to me flowed imme- 
diately from his heart. How deeply was I moved when in unlimited 
confidence he revealed to me the deepest wants and aspirations of 
his soul. From so amazing a combination of mental wants, passion, 
and ideas, I could only gather presentiment of what might, perhaps, 
hereafter grow clearer to me. Fortunately, my mind had already 
been prepared, if not thoroughly cultivated in this direction, having 
in some degree appropriated the results and style of thought of an 
exti'aordinary man, and though my study had been incomplete and 
hasty, I was yet already conscious of important influences derived 
from this source. This man, who had wrought so powerfully on me, 
and who was destined to affect so deeply my entire mode of thinking, 
was Spinoza. After looking around the world in vain for the means 
of developing my strange nature, I met with the Ethics of that phi- 

f ■ 

1774.] TEE LITERARY LION, 171 

losopher. Of what I read in the work, and of what I read into it, I 
can give no account, but I found in it a sedative for my passions^ 
and it seemed to unveil a clear, broad view over the material and 
moral world. But what especially riveted me to him, was the bound- 
less disinterestedness which shone forth in every sentence. That 
wonderful sentiment, ' He who truly loves God must not require God 
to love him in rettim^, together with all the preliminary propositions 
on which it rests, and all the consequences deduced from it, filled 
my mind.* To be disinterested in everything, but most of all in 
love and friendship, was my highest desire, my maxim, my practice, 
so that that saucy speech of Philime^s, ' K I love thee, what is that 
to thee ?' was spoken right out of my heart. Moreover, it must not 
be forgotten here that the closest unions rest on contrasts. The all- 
equalising calmness of Spinoza was in striking contrast with my all- 
disturbing activity ; his mathematical method was the direct opposite 
of my poetic style of thought and feeling, and that very precision 
which was thought iU adapted to moral subjects made me his enthu- 
siastic disciple, his most decided worshipper. Mind and heart, 
understanding and sense, sought each other with eager affinity, bind- 
ing together the most different natures. But now all within was 
fermenting and seething in action and reaction. Fritz Jacobi, the 
first whom I suffered to look into the chaos, and whose nature was 
also toiling in its own unfathomable depths, heartily responded to my 
confidence, and endeavoured to convert me to his own opinions. 
He, too, felt an unspeakable spiritual want ; he, too, would not have 
it appeased by outward aid, but aimed at development and illumina- 
tion from within, I could not comprehend what he communicated to 
me of the state of his mind ; the less, indeed, as I could form no 
adequate conception of my own. Still, being far in advance of me in 
philosophical thought, and even in the study of Spinoza, he was able 
to guide and enlighten my efforts.^' 

Although he studied Spinoza much and reverently, he never 
studied him systematically. The mathematical form into which that 
thinker cS/Sts his granite blocks of thought, was an almost insuper- 
able hinderance to systematic study on the part of one so impatient, 
so desultory, and so unmathematical as Goethe. But a study may be 
very fruitful which is by no means systematic ; a phrase may fructify, 
when falling on a proper soil. It has doutless happened to the 
reader in his youth to meet with some entirely novel and profoundly- 
suggestive idea, casually cited from an ancient author ; if so, he will 

• The proposition to which Goethe refers is doubtless the xix of Book v : " Qui 
Jkum amat, conari nan potest, -ut Deus ipsum contra amet," 



remember the over-mastering influence it exercised, the longing it 
awakened for a nearer acquaintance with that author. The casual 
citation of a passage from Spinoza made my youth restless, and to 
this day I remember the aspect of the page where it appeared, and 
the revolution in thought which it effected. A few ideas determined 
the direction of Goethe's mind. Although he did not study the sys- 
tem of Spinoza with any view of adopting it as a system, he studied 
it to draw therefrom food which his own mind could assimilate and 
work into new forms. Spinoza was to him what Kant was to 
Schiller; but, with characteristic difference, Schiller studied sys- 
tematically, and tried systematically to reproduce what he had 

Side by side with Spinozism, we have to note his struggles to 
gain clearness respecting Christianity. The influence of Fraulein 
von Klettenberg attracted him to the Moravians^ who seemed to 
realise early Christianity ; with his usual impressionability he studied 
their history and their doctrines, and gave them some hopes that he 
would become a convert ; but his enthusiasm cooled down when he 
discovered the wide chasm that separated him from them. " That 
which separated me from this brotherhood," he says, " as well as 
from many other worthy Christians, was the very point which has 
more than once torn the Church with dissent. One party maintained 
that by the Fall, human nature had been so corrupted to its inmost 
core, that not a trace of good could be found in it ; and that, there- 
fore, man must renounce all trust in his own powers, and look only 
to the effect of grace. The opposite party, admitting the hereditary 
imperfections of man, ascribed to nature a certain internal germ of 
good which, animated by divine grace, was capable of growing up 
into a joyous tree of spiritual happiness. This latter conviction 
penetrated to the depths of my soul all the time that I was, with 
tongue and pen, maintaining the opposite doctrine. But I had so 
dawdled along without thinking {ich ddmmerte so hin) that I had 
never clearly stated the dilemma to myself.^' 

In spite of all his differences, however, with this sect or that sect, 
nothing, as he says, could rob him of his love for the Holy Scriptures 
and for the Founder of Christianity. He therefore wrought out for his 
own private use a tJhristianity of his own ; and as everything which 
took possession of his soul always assumed a poetic form, he now 
conceived the idea of treating epically the history of the Wand'ervng 
Jew. '^ The legend ran that in Jerusalem there was a shoemaker 
named Ahazuerus. The shoemaker whom I had known in Dresden, 
supplied me with the main features of his character ; And I animated 

1774.] THE LITERARY LION. 173 

ihem with tlie spirit and humour of an artisan of the school of Hans 
Sachs^ ennobling him by a great love for Christ. In his open work- 
shop he talked with the passers-by, and jested with them after the 
Socratic fashion ; so that the people took pleasure in lingering at 
his booth. Even the Pharisees and Sadducees spoke to him ; and 
our Saviour himself, and his disciples, often stopped before his door. 
The shoemaker, whose thoughts were altogether worldly, I never- 
theless depicted as feeling a special affection for our Lord, which 
chiefly showed itself in a desire to convert this great man, whose 
mind he did not comprehend, to his own way of thinking. He 
therefore gravely incited Christ to abandon contemplation, to cease 
wandering through the country with such idlers, and drawing the 
people away from their work into the desert ; because an assembled 
multitude, he said, was always excitable, and no good could come of 
such a life. Our Lord endeavoured by parables to instruct him in 
his higher views, but they were all thrown away on the rough shoe- 
maker. As Christ grew into greater impoctance, and became a 
public character, the well-meaning workman pronounced his opinion 
still more sharply and angrily, declaring that nothing but disorder 
and tumult could result from such proceedings, and that Christ 
would at length be compelled to place himself at the heaS of a party,' 
which certainly was not his design. And now when these conse- 
quences had ensued, Christ having been seized and condemned, 
Ahazuerus gives full vent to his indignation, as Judas, who in ap- . 
pearance had betrayed our Lord, enters the workshop in despair, 
with loud lamentations, telling of the frustration of his plan. < He had 
been, no less than the shrewdest of the other disciples, thoroughly 
persuaded that Christ would declare himself Regent and Chief of the 
people, and thought by this violence to compel him, whose hesitation 
had hitherto been invincible, to hasten the declaration.* In this 
persuasion he had roused the priesthood to an act from which they 
had hitherto shrunk. The disciples, on their side, were not im- 
armed ; and probably all would have gone well, had not our Lord 
given himself up, and left them in the most helpless condition. 
Ahazuerus, by no means propitiated by this narrative, embitters the 
state of the wretched ex-apostle, who has no resource left but to 
hang himself. As our Saviour is led past the workshop of the shoe- 
maker, on his road to execution, the well-known scene of the legend 
occurs. The sufferer faints under the burden of the cross, which 

* This new light thrown npon that strange histoiy, though adverse from all tra- 
dition, is in strict accordance with onr knowledge of human nature. It has been 
adopted by Archbishop Whately, to whom, indeed, it is generally attributed ; and 
has furnished the subject of a nuracle-play to B. H. Home. See his /uckw IscatrioU 



Simon of C3rrene undertakes to cany. At this moment Ahazoems 
steps forward j and^ in the style of those harsh common-sense people 
who^ seeing a man miserable through his own faulty feel no compas- 
sion, but rather, in their ill-timed justice, make the matter worse by 
reproaches, repeats all his former warnings, which he now turns into 
vehement accusations, springing, as it were, from his very love for 
the suflTerer. Our Saviour answers not, but at that instant Veronica 
covers his face with a napkin, and there, as she removes it and raises 
it aloft, Ahazuerus sees depicted the features of our Lord, not in 
their present agony, but radiant with celestial life. Astounded at 
the sight, he turns away his eyes, and hears the words, ' Over the 
earth shalt thou wander till thou shalt once more see me in this 
form.' Overwhelmed by the sentence, he is some time before he 
recovers himself; he then finds that every one has gone to the jplace of 
execution f and that the streets of Jerusalem are empty. Unrest and 
yearnings drive him forth, and his wanderings begin.'* 

This legendary conception he never executed. It lived within 
him for a long while, and during his travels in Italy he again thought 
of taking it up ; but, like so many other plans, it remained a mere 
scheme, from the want of some external stimulus urging him to give 
it a shape. 

Another subject also worthy of elaborate treatment is thus men- 
tioned by him : '' The common burthen of humanity which we have 
aU to bear falls most heavily on those whose intellectual powers ex- 
pand early. We may grow up under the protection of parents, we 
may lean for a while upon our brothers and friends, be amused by 
acquaintances, rendered happy by those we love, but in the end man 
is always driven back upon himself; and it seems as if the Divinity 
had so placed himself in relation to man as not always to respond to 
his reverence, trust, and love, at least not in the terrible moment of 
need. Early and often enough had I learned that the call to us is 
' Physician, heal thyself ; and how frequently had I been compelled 
to exclaim in my pain, ' I tread the wine-press alone !' So now, 
looking round for support to my self-dependence, I felt that the 
surest basis on which to build was my own productive activity. For 
many years I had never known it fail me. What I had seen by day 
often shaped itself into magnificent dreams at night. My time for 
writing was early in the morning ; but in the evening, or deep in the 
night, when wine and social intercourse had elevated my spirits, you 
might demand whatever you wanted ; only let a subject with some 
character in it be proposed, and I was at once prepared and ready. 
In reflecting on this natural gift, I saw that it belonged to me as my 

1774]. THE LITERARY LION. 176 

owriy and could neither be fostered nor hindered by any external cir- 
cumstances ; so I sought to make it the basis of my whole existence. 
This notion transformed itself intp an image. The old mythological 
figure of Prometheus occurred to me ; who, severed from the gods, 
peopled the world from his own workshop. I clearly felt that nothing 
important could be produced without self-isolation. My productions 
had been the children of solitude ; and since I had formed wider re- 
lations with the world there had been no want of power or of plea^ 
sure of invention, but the execution halted, because I had neither in 
prose nor in verse, what could properly be called a style of my 
own, and thus with every new work had to begin at the beginning, 
and make experiments. As in this I had to exclude all aid from 
men, so, after the fashion of Prometheus, I separated myself from 
the gods also; and this the more naturally as, with my mode of 
thinking, one tendency always swallowed up and repelled every 

" The fable of Prometheus lived within me. The old Titan web I 
cut up according to my own stature, and began to write a play ex- 
pressing the incongruous relation in which Prometheus stood with 
respect to Jupiter and the later gods, in consequence of his making 
men with his own hand, giving them life by the aid of Minerva, and 
thus founding a third dynasty. To this strapge composition belongs 
the monologue which has become famous in German literature, be- 
cause it called forth a declaration from Lessing against Jacobi on cer- 
tain important matters of doctrine.'^* 

Of this Prometheus we possess but a fragment, but the fragment 
is of such excellence as to make us regret that it never was com- 
pleted. It lies there among his works, Uke the torso of the The- 
seus, enough to prove the greatness of the artist, if not enough 
to satisfy the spectator. Grand in conception, simple in style, 
luminous with great thoughts, it would have been an exemplar of 
the adaptation of an antique symbol to modem meanings, not the 
idle imitation of a bygone creed. 

Nothing can be more unlike -^schylus. The Greek Titan glories 
in his audacity : 

^^ Willingly, willingly I did it, never will I deny the deed \" but 
Tvhile glorying, he complains : the injustice of the tyrant wrings 
from him cries of pain, cries of physical and cries of moral agony. 

* He alludes to the discussion on Spinoza between Jacobi and Leasing^ which 
^-ve rise to Jacobi's book^ Ueber die Lehre des SpinozcLs, This feeble book made a 
great noise in its day. 


The whole tragedy is one wild outburst of sorrow. The first . 
words he utters fling his clamorous sorrow on the air, call on 
the Divine Ether and the swift winged Winds, on the Sea Springs 
and the multitudinous laughter of the waves, on the Universal 
Mother, the Earth — and on the all-seeing Eye, the Sun, to witness 
what he, a god, must suffer. These are his opening words ; the 
closing words carry the same burden. He wails over the pangs that 
are and are to be : — 

A2, oI rh vaphv to r* imtpx^t'Mvop 
nrjfia irrcyflCx«* 

This is antique. The Titan in Goethe utters no complaint. There 
is no bravado in his defiance ; the defiance is uncompromising and 
sublime. His contempt for Zeus is founded on his knowledge of the 
subordination of Zeus to a higher power — ^Destiny. ''Away,'' he 
exclaims, '' I serve no slave," 

Geh ! Ich diene nicht Vasallen ! 

In this he resembles the Titan drawn by Shelley, in the Prometheus 
Unbound, who, to Mercury's warning of the years of coming torture, 
calmly and grandly answers : 

" Perchance no thought can count them — ^yet they pass !" 

On this conviction resi;^ his self-reliance. He knows the reign of 
tyranny must end, and he awaits that end. 

In -^schylus also, the Titan knows that Zeus must fall ; he fore- 
sees his own release, and, foreseeing it, resolves to bear his fate as 
well as he can, "for it is vain to struggle against fate" (v. 105). 
Nevertheless, the knowledge of an end, and the philosophy which 
preaches acquiescence, does not prevent him from complainitig , And 
this is very Grreek. Homer makes even Mars, when wounded, howl 
with pain; and Sophocles has filled the Philoctetes with cries of 
physical pain. The Greeks had none of our modem notions re- 
specting the effeminacy of complaint. 

It may be objected perhaps to the foregoing view of the Titan, 
that -^schylus has in the first scene made him imperturbably silent, 
disdaining to answer the taunts of Power and the pity of Vulcan, as 
they bind him to the rock. These draw from him no groan, no 
word, no gesture ; he has no defiance for the one, nor friendly gra- 
titude for the other. It is not until he is left alone that he appeals 
to Earth, Air and Ocean. This silence followed by this passion, 
produces a sublime effect. But the sublimity was not the poet's in- 
tention ; it is an accidental effect. The silence was simply a stage- 
necessity, as I have elsewhere shown. Whether owing to some 

1774.] TUB LITERARY LION. 177 

enrhytlunic tendency in the construction of Greek plays, as Gruppe,* 
and after him Bode,t have maintained; or, more probably from 
motives of economy with respect to the actors, as Geppert asserts ; J 
certain it is that in the plays of -^schylus more than two speakers 
were never together on the stage, with one trivial exception in the 
Choephorce, where Pylades says a few words. Hence scholars have 
been puzzled to account for the distribution of the Prometheus into 
parts. In the first scene the protagonist would take Power and 
the deuteragonist Vulcan. Prometheus therefore must be silent, for 
there is no one to speak for him. Here comes the difficulty : If 
Prometheus is necessarily silent during the prologue, how does he 
become eloquent immediately on being left alone ? Welcker || sup- 
poses that Prometheus was represented by a picture, and the pro- 
tagonist at the close of the prologue got behind it, and spoke 
through it ; an explanation accepted by Hermann, § but shown by 
Schomannlf to be full of difficulties. Let that point be settled as it 
may, the fact remains that the silence of Prometheus was forced by 
stage necessities, and was not meant as an indication of his self- 
reliance ; the further proof of which is to be seen in his wailings and 
writhings throughout the play — notably in the scene with Mercury 
(v. 905), where Prometheus is scurrilously fluent. 

Shelley never makes his Titan flinch. He stands there as the sub- 
lime of endurance : 

" To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite ; 
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night ; 
To defy power which seems omnipotent ; 
To love and bear; to hope till Hope creates 
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates ; 
Neither to change, nor Mter, nor repent." 

This is grand; but grander far the conception of Goethe, whose 
Titan knows that he is a god, and that if he be true to himself no 
power can trouble or destroy his heritage of life and activity : 

Das was ich habe k5nnen sie nicht ranben, 

Und was aie haben m5gen sie beschdtzen ; 

Hier Mein and Dein, 
Und so sind wir geschieden. 


Wie vieles ist denn Dein ? 

• Ariadne : oder die tragische Kunst der Qriechen, p. 143. 

t Oeackiehte der Hellen, Dichtkunst, ni, p. 233. 

X AlUGriechische Buhne, p. 58. § Trilogie, p. 30. 

II Opusc. II, p. 146. ^ Prometheus, p^85. 




Der Ereis den meine Wirksamkeit erf&llt.* 

This is a profound truth strikingly brought out. Godlike energy is 
seen only in creation; what we can do we a/re; our strength is 
measured by our plastic power. Thus the contempt of Prometheus 
for the idleness^ the uncreativeness of the gods is both deep and 

Onrtain thy heavenB, Zeus, 

With doudsj with mist ! 
And, like a boy that cmshee thistle-tops. 
Loosen thy ra^ on oaks and monntain ridges* 

Yet must thou leave 

Me my earth standing; 
My hut, which myself built ; 
My hearth, with its bright flame. 
Which thou dost envy. 
I know nought so pitiful 
Under the sun as ye gods ! 

Scantily nourishing 

With the forced offerings 

Of tremulous prayer 

Your divinity I 

Children and beggars. 

And fools hope-deluded. 

Keep ye from starving I 
Who gave me succour 
From the fierce Titans ? 
Who rescued me 
Prom slavery ? 

Thou ! thou, my soxil, glowing 
With holiest fire! 
Yet didst thou, credulous. 
Pour forth thy thanks to him 

Who slumbers above ! 

I reverence thee ? Wherefore ? 
Hast lightened the woes 
Of the heavily laden P 
Hast thou dried the tears 
Of the troubled in spirit P 
Who fashioned me man ? 

Was it not almighty Time — 

And Fate eternal. 

Thy lords and mine P 

• That which I have they cannot rob me of; that which they have, let them 
g^uard. Here mine, here thine ; and thus are we distinguished. 


What, then, is thine P 


The circle my activity doth fill ! 

1774.] THE LITERARY LION, 179 

Here I sit and shape 

M»-^^ in my imaff e : 

A race like myself. 

That will snffer and weep. 

Will rq'oioe and eigoy. 

And soom thee, 


Even in this rough plaster-cast of translation^ does not the grandeur 
and beauty of the original shine through f 

N 2 




'* I MUST tell you something which makes me happy ; and that is the 
visit of many excellent men of all grades, and from all parts, who, 
among unimportant and intolerable visitors, call on me often, and 
stay some time. We first know that we exist, when we recognise our- 
selves in others {man weisa erst doss man ist, wenn man sich in andern 
wiederfindet)J* It is thus he writes to the Countess Augusta von 
Stolberg, with whom he had formed, through correspondence, one 
of. those romantic friendships which celebrated men, some time in 
their lives, are generally led to form. This correspondence is among 
the most characteristic evidences we have of his mental condition, 
and should be read by every one who wishes to correct the tone of 
the Autobiography. Above all, it is the repository of his fluctuating 
feelings respecting Lili, the woman whom, according to his state- 
ment to Eckermann, he loved more than any other. '' She was the 
first, and I can also add she is the last, I truly loved ; for all the m- 
clinatians which have since agitated my heart, were superficial and 
trivial in comparison.*'* There is no statement he has made re- 
specting a matter of feeling, to which one may oppose a flatter con- 
tradiction. Indeed we find it diflicult to believe he uttered such a 
sentence, imless we remember how carelessly in conversation such 
retrospective statements are made, and how, at his very advanced 
age, the memory of youthful feelings must have come back upon 
him with peculiar tenderness. Whatever caused him to make that 
statement, the statement is very questionable. I do not think that he 
loved Lili more than Frederika ; and we shall hereafter have positive 
evidence that his love for the Fran von Stein, and for his wife, was 
of a much deeper and more enduring nature. " My love for Lili,*' 
he said to Eckermann, " had something so peculiar and delicate that 
even now it has influenced my style in the narrative of that painfuUy- 
happy epoch. When you read the fourth volume of my Autohio- 
(jraphyy you will see that my love was something quite difierent 
from love in novels." 

• Oesprache, in, p. 299. 

1774.] LILI. 181 

Well, the fourtli volume is now open to every one, and he must 
have peculiar powers of divination who can read any profound pas- 
sion in the narrative. A colder love-history was never written by a 
poet. There is no emotion warming the narrative ; there is little of 
a loving recollection, gathering all details into one continuous story j 
it is, indeed, with great difficulty one upravels the story at all. He 
seems to seize every excuse to intenwpiyi^ narrative by general re- 
flections, or by sketches of other people. He speaks of himself as 
" the youth of whom we^now writer*^ ' He speaks of her, and her 
circle, in the vaguest manner ; and the feelings which agitated him 
we must '' read between the lines." -^ ' v^ 

It is very true, however, that the love there depicted is unlike the 
love depicted in novels. In novels, whatever may be the amount of 
foolishness with which the writers adumbrate their ideal of the pas- 
sion, this truth, at least, is everywhere set forth, that to love we 
must render up body and soul, heart and mmd, all interests and all 
desires, all prudences and all ambitions, identifying our being with 
that of another, in union to become elevated. To love is for the 
soul to choose a companion, and travel with it along the perilous 
defiles and winding ways of life ; mutually abstaining, when the path 
is terrible with dangers, mutually exhorting, when it is rugged with 
obstructions, and mutually rejoicing, when rich broad plains and 
sunny slopes make the journey a delight, showing in the quiet dis- 
tance the resting-place we all seek in this world. 

It was not such companionship he sought with Lili ; it was not 
such self-devotion which made him restlessly happy in her love. 
This child of sixteen, in all the merciless grace of maidenhood, 
proudly conscious of her power, ensnared his roving heart through 
the lures of passionate desire, but she never touched his soul; as 
the story we have to tell will sufficiently prove. 

Anna Elizabeth Schonemann, immortalised as Lili, was the daughter 
of a great banker in Frankfurt, who lived in the splendid style of 
merchant-^princes. She was sixteen when Goethe first fell in love 
with her. "The age is significant. It was somewhat the age of 
Frederika, Lotte, Antoinette, and Maximiliane. An age when girl- 
hood has charms of grace and person, of beauty and freshness, which 
even those wiU not deny who profoundly feel the superiority of a de- 
veloped woman. There is poetry in this age ; but there is no depth, 
no fulness of character. Imagine the wide -sweeping mind of the 
author of Qoiz^ Faust, Prometfums, The Wandering Jew, Mahomet, in 
companionship with the mind of a girl of sixteen ! 

Nor was Lili an exceptional character. Young, graceful, and 


charming^ she was confessedly a coquette. Early in their acquaint- 
ance^ in one of those pleasant hours of overflowing egotism wherein 
lovers take pride in the confession of faults (not without intimation 
also of nobler qualities), Lili told him the story of her life ; told him 
what a flirt she had been ; told him, moreover, that she had tried 
her spells on him, and was punished by being herself ensnared. 
Armida found herself spell-bound by Rinaldo ; but this Rinaldo fol- 
lowed her into the enchanted gardens more out of adventurous 
curiosity than love. 

There was considerable difierence in their stations ; and the elegant 
society of the banker's house was every way discordant to the wild 
youth, whose thoughts were of Nature, and unconstrained freedom. 
The balls and concerts to which he followed her were little to his 
taste, y If," he writes to Augusta von Stolberg, '^ If you can ima- 
gine a Goethe in braided coat, from head to foot in the gallantest 
costume, amid the glare of chandeliers, fastened to the card table by 
a pair of bright eyes, surrounded by all sorts of people, driven in 
endless dissipation from concert to ball, and with frivolous interest 
making love to a pretty blonde, then will you have a picture of the 
present Carnival-Goethe.'' In the following poem he expresses Lili's 
fascination and his uneasiness ; the translation aims at accuracy of 
meaning rather than poetry, because the meaning is here the motive 
for my citing the poem : 

"Wlierefore bo resiBtlessly dost draw me 

Into Boenes bo bright P 
Had I not enough to soothe and chann me 

In the lonely night ? 

Homely in my little room sedtided. 

While the moon's bright beams 
In a shimmering light fell softly on me. 

As I lay in dreams. 

Dreaming thro' the golden honrs of rapture 

Soothed my heart to rest, * 

As I felt thy image sweetly living 

Deep within my breast. 

Can it be I sit at yonder table. 

Gay with cards and lights. 
Forced to meet intolerable people. 

Because 'tis iKt invites ? 

Alas ! the gentle bloom of spring no long^ 

Cheereth my poor heart. 
There is only spring, and love, and nature. 

Angel, where thou art ! 

The real Goethe is thus drawn in contrast by himself in his letter 

1774.] LILL 183 

to Augusta. '^ But there is another^ who in grey beaver coat, with 
boots, and a brown silk neckerchief, who, ever Uving in himself, 
working and striving, now throwing the innocent feelings of youth 
into little poems, now the strong spices of life into dramas, sketching 
his friends in dialk, asking neither right nor left what will be thought 
of his doings, because he always rises through work a step higher, 
because he springs at no ideal, but lets his nature develope itself 
fighting and playing.'' Here the true chord vibrates. Bom for 
poetry, and not to pass his life in ball-rooms dangling after a pretty 
blonde who coquetted with him and with others, he feels that his 
passion is a folly. Now when a man feels that — '' Cupid may have 
tapped him on the shoulder, but I warrant him heart whole.'' Bead 
this poem, and read in it the struggle : 

Heart, my heart, what ib this feeling. 

That doth weigh on thee so sore ? 
Wliat new life art thou revealing. 

That I know myself no more ? 
Gone is all that once was dearest. 
Gone the care that once was nearest. 
Gone the labour, gone the bliss. 
Ah ! whence comes such change as this P 
Art thou spell-bound by the beauty 

Of a sweetly blooming face ; 
Beauteous shape, and look so truthful. 

And an all-resistless grace ?, 
When the bonds I strive to sever, 
Man myself to flee for ever. 
Vain are all my efforts, vain ! 
And but lead me back again. 

With such magic-web she binds me. 

To burst through I have no skill ; 
All-absorbing passion blinds me. 

Paralyses my poor will. 
In her charmM sphere delaying, 
I must live, her will obeying : 
Great, oh ! great to me the change ! 
Love, oh ! free me ! let me range !* 

Lili coquetted, and her coquetry seems to have cooled his passion 
for a while, though she knew how to rekindle it. She served him as 
he served poor Katchen, in Leipzig ; and as in Leipzig he dramatised 
his experience under the form of I}ie Laiine des Verliebten, so here 
he dramatises the new experience in an opera, Erwin und Elmire, 
wherein the coquetry of a mistress brings a lover to despair — a 

• No one can be more sensible than I am of the inadequacy of this translation, 
but the English reader would rather have a poor translation than an original he 
could not understand ; and the German reader has only to turn to the origii^ 
if it does not linger in his memory. 


warning to Lili, which 4>e8 not seem to have been altogether with- 
out effect. 

Not only had he to suffer from her thoughtlessness, but also from 
the thoughtfulness of parents on both sides. It was not a marriage 
acceptable to either house. The banker's daughter, it was thought, 
should marry into some rich or noble family. A poet, who belonged 
to a well-to-do yet comparatively unimportant family, was not exactly 
the bridegroom most desired. On the other hand, the proud, stiff 
old Rath did not greatly rejoice in the prospect of having a fine lady 
for his daughter-in-law. Cornelia, who knew her father, and knew 
his pedantic ways, wrote strongly against the marriage. Merck, 
Crespel, Horn, and other friends, were all decidedly opposed to so 
incompatible a match. But of course the lovers were only thrown 
closer together by these attempts to separate them. 

A certain Demoiselle Delf managed to overcome objections, and 
gain the consent of both families. '^ How she commenced it, how 
she got over the difficulties I know not, but one evening she came to 
us bringing the consent. ' Take each other's hands,' she cried in a 
half pathetic, half imperious manner : I advanced to Lili and held 
out my hand : in it she placed her's, not indeed reluctantly, yet 
slowly. With a deep sigh we sank into each other's arms greatly 
agitated.'^ No formal betrothal seems to have taken place. Indeed, 
the consent which was obtained seems in nowise to have altered the 
feeling of friends and relatives. The nearer marriage seemed, the 
more impracticable it appeared. To Goethe, after the first flush of 
joy had subsided, the idea of marriage was in itself enough to make 
him uneasy, and to sharpen his sense of the disparity in station. 
The arrival of the two Counts Stolberg, and their proposal that he 
should accompany them in a tour through Switzerland, gave an ex- 
cuse for freeing himself from Lili, ^' as an experiment to tiy whether 
he could renounce her.'' 

Before accompanying him on his journey, it is necessary to cast a 
retrospective glance at some biographical details, omitted while the 
story of Lili was narrated. The mornings were devoted to poetry, 
the middle of the day to jurisprudence. Poetry was the breathing- 
room of his heart. In it he sought to escape from the burden of in- 
tolemble doubts. " If I did not write dramas I should be lost,'' he 
tells Augusta von Stolberg. Among these dramas we must place 
Stelldy for which, as we learn from a letter to Merck, the pubhsher 
offered twenty dollars, — that is to say, three pounds sterling. What 
an insight this gives into the state of Literature j the author of two 
immensely popular works is offered three pounds for a drama in 

17740 LILL 185 

five acts I Poor Schiller, subsequently, was glad to write histories 
and translate memoirs for fifteen or eighteen shillings a sheet of 
sixteen pages. 

In Stella I can trace no biographical element, and perhaps the ab- 
sence of this element makes the weakness of the drama. . A poorer 
production was never owned by a great poet ; although there have 
not been wanting critics to see in this also the broad handling of a 
master. It is the old story of the Count von Gleichen and his two 
wives. Fernando has deserted his wife, and formed an attachment 
to SteUa j but the peculiarity of the situation is, that he quitted Ce- 
ciUa, h& wife, from no assignable cause, without even having outlived 
his love for her. He has indeed every reason to respect and cherish 
her as the mother of his child, and as a high-principled, virtuous 
woman ; but he flies from her like a coward, flies to one more pas- 
sionate, because she gives him the transports of passion in exchange 
for his wife's calm affection. The two women meet, and discover 
their love for the same man. 

Here is a fine dramatic collision. On the one side Fernando sees 
Duty in the shape of a noble, suffering wife, and an engaging daugh- 
ter ; on the other. Passion in the shape of a fascinating mistress. 
But with this suggestive subject Goethe has done little. He shows 
us the contemptible weakness of the wavering Fernando, but the 
subject he has not powerfully wrought out. As I cannot recommend 
anyone to read this play, the two masterly touches it contains may 
here be cited. The following is delicately observed : 

We women believe in men ! In the ardour of pawior^ fhefy deceive themselves, how 
then can we help being deceived by them ? 

This also is charming : Ferdinand returns to Stella after a long 
•absence, and in their endearments she says : 

Stella, How we love you ! We do not think of the grief yon cause us ! 

Fernando (stroking her hair). And has the grief made your hair grey? It is 
fortunate your hair is so golden . . . nay, none seems to have faUen out ! (Takes 
the comb from her hair, which falls on her shoulders. He then twines the hair round 
his arm, exclaiming :) Kinaldo once more in the ancient chains I 

Artists complain of the dearth of subjects; will no one try his 
hand at that ? Originally the denouement of this " Play for lovers^' 
(as it was called) solved the difficulty by a romantic piece of bigamy. 
Fernando is about to fly with Cecilia — ^about to return to his duty, 
when his wife — compassionating the situation of Stella, if Fernando 
should leave her — resolves to sacrifice her conjugal claims, and to 
share him with Stella ! The curtain faUs as he embraces them both, 
exclaiming, ^ Mine ! mine !' 


This roused vehement opposition. It was said to be a plea in 
favour of bigamy. The public dimly felt that instead of being a 
proper solution of the problem, it was on the whole rather ridiculous. 
Still more unsatisfactory however, if deeply considered, is the d^- 
Twuemefit which was added when the play was produced at Weimar, 
and which now takes the place of the original in his collected works. 
Therein Fernando, unable to quit Stella, and unable to quit his wife, 
weeps with both, and blows his brains out. This is an evasion of the 
difficulty, not a solution. 

In 1798, a feeble translation of Stella was published in England, 
and suggested to Canning his admirable caricature. The Rovers, 
familiar to all readers of the Antija>cobin, Among the ludicrous pas- 
sages of this parody is the famous vow of friendship : 

"Matilda, A sudden thouglit strikee me. Let ns swear an eternal friendship. 
" Cecilia, Let us agree to live together." 

But this is really a very slight variation from the original : 

Stella. Madame ! Da fdhrt mir ein Qedanke durch den Kopf— Wir wollen ein- 
ander das seyn, waJB sie uns h&tten werden soUen ! Wir wollen beisammen bleiben ! 
— Ihre hand ! — ^Yon diesen Augenblick an^ lass' ich Sie nicht ! 

•* Besides Stella, he seemed to have worked at Faust, and to have 
written the opera of Claudine von Villa Bella, several passages for 
Lavater's Physiognmny, and many smaller poems. 

The Stolbergs, with whom the Swiss journey was made, were two 
ardent admirers of Klopstock, and two specimens of the defiant 
'' genius'^ class which scorned convention. They hated imaginary 
tyrants; outraged sober citizens by their reckless recurrence to a 
supposed state of nature ; and astonished sensible citizens by their 
exaggerated notions of friendship. Merck was pitiless in his sar- 
casms and warnings. He could not tolerate the idea of Goethe^s 
travelling with these BurscJien. But Goethe had too much of kindred 
devilry in him, breaking out at moments, to object to the wildness 
of his companions ; though he began to suspect all was not right 
when, after violating every other convenance, they insisted on bathing 
in public. Nature having nothing to say against naked youths 
in the bright sunshine, what business had old Humdrum to cover its 
eyes with modest hands, and pretend to be shocked ? However, so 
little prepossessed was Humdrum in favour of the Nude, that stones 
were showered upon these children of Nature; a criticism which 
efiectively modified their practice, if it failed to alter their views. 

Drinking the health of Stolberg's mistress, and then dashing the 
glasses against the wall to prevent their being desecrated by other 

1774.] LILL 187 

lips after so solemn a consecration (a process which looked less 
heroic when itemed in the bill next day), and otherwise demeaning 
themselves like true children of '' genius'', they passed a wild and 
merry time. This journey need not longer detain us. Two visits 
alone deserve mention. One was to Karl August, who was then in 
Karlsruhe arranging his marriage with the Princess Luise, and who 
very pressingly invited the poet to Weimar. The other was to his 
sister Cornelia, who earnestly set before him all the objections to a 
marriage with Lili. ''I made no promises,'' he says, ''although 
forced to confess that she had convinced me. I left her with that 
strange feeUng in my heart with which passion nourishes itself; for 
the boy Cupid clings obstinately to the garment of Hope even when 
she is preparing with long strides to depart," The image of Lili 
haunted him amid the lovely scenes of Nature : 

Dearest Lili, if I did not loye thee 
How entrandng were a soene like this ! 

Tet, my LiU, if I did not love thee. 
What were any bliss ? 

It was her image which endeared him to his native land. His father, 
always desirous he should see Italy, was now doubly anxious he 
should go there, as the surest means of a separation from Lili. 
But '' Lombardy and Italy," says the poet, " lay before me a strange 
land; while the dear home of Germany lay. behind, full of sweet 
domesticities, and where — ^let me confess it — she Uved who so long 
had enchained me, in whom my existence was centred. A Uttle 
golden heart, which in my happiest hours I had received from her, 
still hung round my neck. I drew it forth and covered it with 

On his return to Frankfurt he learned that Lili's friends had taken 
advantage of his absence, to try and bring about a separation, 
arguing, not without justice, that his absence was a proof of luke- 
warmness. But Lili remained firm ; and it was said that she had 
declared herself willing to go with him to America. A sentence from 
the Autobiography is worth quoting, as a specimen of that love '' so 
nnUke the love to be found in novels", which he declared had given 
a peculiar tone to his narrative. It is in reference to this willingness 
of Lili to go to America : " the very thing which should have 
animated my hopes depressed them. My fair paternal house, only a 
few hundred paces from hers, was after all more endurable and 
attractive than a remote, hazardous spot beyond the seas !" A sen- 
tence which recalls Gibbon's antithesis, on his resignation of his 
early love : " I sighed as a lover, I obeyed as a son," 



He was restless and unhappy during these months, for he was not 
strong enough to give up Lili, nor suflBciently in love to many her ; 
jealous of those who surrounded her, hurt by her coldness, he was 
every now and then led captive by her tenderness. There were 
moments when by-gone days seemed once more restored, and then 
instantly vanished again. His poem of lAWs Menageris expresses 
his surly disgust at the famiUar faces which surround her. The Bear 
of the menagerie is a portrait of himself. 

Turning to Art for consolation, he began the tragedy of Egmont, 
which he completed many years afterwards in Italy. It was a work 
which demanded more repose than could be found in his present 
condition, and I hasten to the denouement of an episode, which, amid 
fluctuations of feeling, steadily advanced to an end that must have 
been foreseen. The betrothal was cancelled. He was once more 
free. Free, but not happy. His heart still yearned for her, rather 
because there lay in his nature a need of loving, than because she 
was the woman fitted to share his hfe. He lingered about the house 
o' nights, wrapped in his mantle, satisfied if he could catch a glimpse 
of her shadow on the blind, as she moved about the room. One night 
he heard her singing at the piano. His pulses throbbed, as he dis- 
tinguished his own song : 

Wherefore so resistlesaly dost draw me 
Into scenes so bright ? — 

the song he had written in the morning of their happiness ! Her 
voice ceased. She rose, and walked up and down the room, little 
dreaming that her lover was beneath her window. 

To give decision to his wavering feelings, there came, most oppor- 
tunely, a visitor to Frankfurt. This was in September. Karl August, 
with his bride, on his way to Weimar, once more pressed him to 
spend a few weeks at his court. The rapid inclination which had 
sprung up between the Prince and the Poet— the desire to see 
something of the great world — the desire, moreover, to quit Frank- 
furt, all combined to make him eagerly accept the invitation. His 
father, indeed, tried to dissuade him ; partly because he did not like 
the intercourse of plain citizens with princes; partly because the 
recent experience of Voltaire with Frederick the Great seemed to 
point to an inevitable termination in disgrace, if not evaded by ser- 
vility. His consent was extorted' at last, however, and Goethe 
quitted for ever the paternal roof. 


1775 to 1779. 

' Qois noYoa hie nostiis successit sedibus hospes ? 
Quern sese ore ferena ! quam forti pectore et armis ! 
Credo equidem, nee vana fides, genus esse Deorum." 


" Tolle Zeiien hab' ich erlebt und hab* nicbt ermangelt, 
Selbst auch thdricbt zu sein wie es die Zeit mir gebot." 



On the 7th of November, 1775, Goethe, aged twenty-six, arrived at 
the little city on the banks of the Ilm, where his long residence was 
to confer on an insignificant Duchy the immortal renown of a German 

Small indeed is the space occupied on the map by the Duchy of 
Saxe- Weimar; yet the historian of the German Courts declares, and 
truly, that after Berlin there is no Court of which the nation is so 
proud.* Frederick the Great and Wolfgang Goethe have raised 
these Courts into centres of undying interest. Of Weimar it is 
necessary we should form a distinct idea, if we would understand 
the outward life of the poet. 

Klein ist unter den FOrsten Germaniens freilich der meme> 
Kurz und schmal ist sein Land, massig nur was er vermag. 

'' Small among German princes is mine, poor and narrow his king- 
dom, Umited his power of doing good." Thus sings Goethe in that 
poem, so honourable to both, wherein he acknowledges his debt to 
Karl August. The geographical importance of Weimar was, and is, 
small ; but we in England have proud reason to know how great 
a place in the world can be filled by a nation whose place is 
trivial on the map. We know, moreover, that the Athens, which it 
is the pride of Weimar to claim as a patronymic, was but a dot upon 
• VsHBE : Qesehichle der Deutsehen Hdfe seit der RrformaHon, vol, xxviii, p. 3. 



the surface of Europe, a dot of earth, feeding some twenty thousand 
freemen, who not only extended the empire of their arms from 
Euboea to the Thracian Bosphorus, but who left their glories in 
Literature, Philosophy, and Art, as marvels and as models for the 
civihzed world. It is interesting therefore to know how small this 
Duchy of Saxe-Weimar was, that we may appreciate the influence 
exercised by means so circumscribed. We must know how absurdly 
scant the income of its generous prince, who, as I am credibly in- 
formed, would occasionally supply the deficiencies of his purse by 
the princely unprinceliness of selling to the Jews a diamond ring, or 
ancestral snuff-box, that he might hand the proceeds to some 
struggling artist or poet. I mention this lest it should be supposed 
that a sarcastic spirit has dictated the enumeration of unimposing 
details, in the following attempt to reconstruct some image of Weimar 
and its Court. 

Weimar is an ancient city on the Hm, a small stream rising in the 
' Thuringian forests, and losing itself in the Saal, at Jena; this 
stream on which the sole navigation seems to be that of ducks, 
meanders peacefully through pleasant valleys, except during the 
rainy season, when mountain-torrents swell its current, and over- 
flow its banks. The Trent, between Trentham and Stafford — "the 
smug and silver Trenf as Shakspeare calls it — ^will give an idea of 
this stream. The town is charmingly placed in the TItti valley, and 
stands some eight hundred feet above the level of the sea. "Weimar," 
says the old topographer, Mathew Merian, " is Weinmar, because it 
was the wine market for Jena and its environs. Others say it was 
because some one here in ancient days began to plant the vine, who 
was hence called Weinmayer. But of this each reader may believe 
just what he pleases."* 

On a first acquaintance, Weimar seems more like a village border- 
ing a park, than a capital with a Court, having all courtly environ- 
ments. It is so quiet, so simple ; and although ancient in its archi- 
tecture, has none of the picturesqueness which delights the eye in 
most old German cities. The stone-coloured, light brown, and apple- 
green houses have high-peaked slanting roofs, but no quaint gables, 
no caprices of architectural fancy, none of the mingling of varied 
styles which elsewhere charms the traveller. One learns to love its 
quiet simple streets, and pleasant paths, fit theatre for the simple 
actors moving across the scene ; but one must live there some time 
to discover its charm. The aspect it presented, when Goethe 
arrived, was of course very different from that presented now ; but 
• Topographia SuperiorU Baxonia Thuringice, etc., 1650, p. 188. 


by diligent inquiry we may get some rough image of the place 
restored. First be it noted that the city walls were still erect; 
gates and portcullis 'still spoke of days of warfare. Within these 
walls were six or seven hundred houses^ not more^ most of them 
very ancient. Under these roofs were about seven thousand in- 
habitants — ^for the most part not handsome. The city gates were 
strictly guarded. No one could pass through them in cart or 
carriage without leaving his name in the sentineFs book; even 
Goethe^ minister and favourite^ could not escape this tiresome 
formality^ as we gather from one of his letters to the Frau von 
Stein^ directing her to go out alone^ and meet him beyond the gates, 
lest their exit together should be known. During Sunday service a 
chain was thrown across the streets leading to the church, to bar out 
all passengers, a practice to this day partially retained : the chain 
is fastened, but the passengers step over it without ceremony. 
There was little safety at night in those silent streets ; for if you 
were in no great danger from marauders, you were in constant 
danger of breaking a limb in some hole or other; the idea of light- 
ing streets not having presented itself to the Thuringian mind. In 
the year 1686, the streets of London were first Hghted with lamps ; 
in 1775 Germany had not yet ventured on that experiment. If in 
1854 Weimar is still innocent of gas, and perplexes its inhabitants 
with the dim obscurity of an occasional oil-lamp slung on a cord 
across the streets, we can understand that in 1775 it had not even 
advanced so far. And our supposition is exact.* 

The palace, which now forms three sides of a quadrangle, and is 
truly palatial in appearance, was in ashes when Goethe arrived. 
The ducal pair inhabited the Furstenhaus, which stands opposite. 
The park was not in existence. In its place there was the Wehche 
Garten f a garden arranged afber the pattern of Versailles, with trees 
trimmed into set shapes, with square beds, canals, bridges, and a 
Babylonic spiral tower called Die Schnecke, in which the people 
assembled to hear music, and to enjoy punch and sweet cakes. To 
the left of this garden stood the nucleus of the present park, and a 
wooded mass stretching as far as Upper Weimar. 

Saxe- Weimar has no trade, no manufactures, no animation of com- 
mercial, political, or even theological activity. This part of Saxony, 
be it remembered, was the home and shelter of Protestantism in its 
birth. Only a few miles from Weimar stands the Wartburg, where 

* In a decree made at Cassel, in 1776, this sentence is noticeable : " In every 
house as soon as the alarum sounds at night, every inhabitant must hold out a 
lighted lantern, in order that the people may find their way in the streets." Quoted 
by BiSDXBMANK : Deutschlomd im ISten Jahrhundert, i, p. 370. 



Luther, in the disguise of Squire George, lived in safety, translating 
the Bible, and hurling his inkstand at the head of Satan, like a 
roughhanded disputant as he was. In the market-place of Weimar 
stand, to this day, two houses from the windows of which Tetzel 
advertised his indulgences, and Luther afterwards in fieiy indigna- 
tion fulminated against them. These records of rehgious struggle 
still remain, but are no longer suggestions for the continuance of the 
strife. The fire is burnt out ; and perhaps in no city of Europe is 
theology so placid, so entirely at rest. The Wartburg still rears its 
picturesque eminence over the lovely Thuringian valleys ; and Lu- 
ther's room is visited by thousands of pilgrims ; but in this very 
palace of the Wartburg, besides the room where Luther struggled 
with Satan, the visitors are shown the Banqueting Hall of the Min- 
nesingers, where poet challenged poet, and the Sdngerkrieg, or Min- 
strels' Contest, was celebrated. The contrast may be carried further. 
It may be taken as a symbol of the intellectual condition of Saxe- 
Weimar, that while the relics of Luther are simply preserved, the 
Minstrel Hall is now being restored in more than its pristine splen- 
dour. Lutheran theology is crumbling away, just as the famous 
inkspot has disappeared beneath the gradual scrapings of visitor's 
penknives ; but the minstrelsy of which the Germans are so proud, 
daily receives fresh honour and adulation. Nor is this adulation a 
mere revival. Every year the Wartburg saw assembled the members 
of that numerous family (the Bachs) which, driven from Hungary in 
the early period of Reform, had settled in Saxony, and had given, 
besides the great John Sebastian Bach, many noble musicians to 
the world. Too numerous to gain a livelihood in one city, the Bachs 
agreed to meet every year at the Wartburg. This custom, which 
was continued till the close of the eighteenth century, not only pre- 
sented the singular spectacle of one family consisting of no less than 
a hundred and twenty musicians, but was also the occasion of mu- 
sical entertainments such as were never heard before. They began 
by rehgious hymns, sung in chorus ; they then took for their theme 
some popular song, comic or licentious, varying it by the improvisa- 
tion of four, five, or six parts ; these improvisations were named 
QuoUhets, and are considered by many writers to have been the 
origin of German opera. 

The theologic fire has long burnt itself out in Thuringia. In 
Weimar, where Luther preached, another preacher came, whom we 
know as Goethe. In the old church there is one portrait of Luther, 
painted by his friend Lucas Kranach, greatly prized, as well it may 
bo ; but for this one portrait of Luther, there are a hundred of 


Goethe. It is not Luther, but Goethe, they think of here ; poetry, 
not theology, is the glory of Weimar. And, corresponding with this, 
we find the dominant characteristic of the place to be no magnifi- 
cent church, no picturesque ancient buildings, no visible image of 
the earlier ages, but the sweet serenity of a lovely park. The park 
fills the foreground of the picture, and always rises first in the me- 
mory. Any one who has spent happy hours wandering through its 
sunny walks and winding shades, watching its beauties changing 
through the fulness of summer, and the striking contrasts of autumn* 
as it deepens into winter, will easily understand how Goethe could 
have been content to live in so small a city, which had, besides its 
nest of friends, so charming a park. It was indeed mainly his own 
creation ; and as it filled a large space in his life, it demands more 
than a passing allusion here. 

Southwards from the palace it begins, with no obstacle of wall or 
iron gate, servant or sentinel, to seem to shut us out, so let us enter 
and look round. In the dew of morning, and in the silence of moon- 
light, we may wander undisturbed as if in our own grounds. The 
land stretches for miles away without barrier ; park and yellow corn- 
lands forming one friendly expanse. If we pass into it from the 
palace gates, a winding path to the right conducts us into the Belve- 
dere AJlee : a magnificent avenue of chestnut trees, two miles long, 
stretching from the new street to the summer palace of Belvedere. 
This aflTords a shaded promenade along the park, in summer grateful 
for its coolness, in autumn looking like an avenue of golden trees. 
It terminates in the "gardens of the Belvedere, which has its park 
also beautifully disposed. Here the Weimarians resort, to enjoy the 
fresh air afber their fashion, namely, with accompaniments of bad 
beer, questionable cofiee, and detestable tobacco. 

If, instead of turning into the Belvedere AU^e, we keep within the 
park, our walks are so numerous that choice becomes perplexing. 
Let us cross the Sterti Briicke, a bridge leading from the palace. 
Turning to our right we pass along through noble trees, charmed by 

" The sound of a Mdden brook 
In the leafy month of June, 
Which to the quiet trees all night 
Singeth a quiet tune." 

We reach the broad road leading to Upper Weimar. On this road, 
which skirts a meadow washed by the Ilm, we shall pass Goethe^s 
Gartenhaus (Garden House, to be described hereafter), and then 
winding round the meadow, cross another bridge, and enter a 
shadowy path, picturesque with well-grouped trees — the solemn 


pine^ the beech^ whose dark green patches of .moss increase the 
brilliancy of its silver bark^ the weeping birch with its airy elegance 
of form^ the plane tree^ the elm, the chestnut and the mountain asfa^ 
brilliant with berries hanging like clusters of coral against the deep 
blue of the sky. One steep side of this path is craggy with maisses 
of moss-covered rock ; beneath the other flows the Hm, A few paces 
from the bridge which leads us here, stands the Borkenliavs, (Bark 
House), a hermit's hut, erected by Groethe for a £8te of the ducl^ess, 
and subsequently the favourite residence of the duke. It is bnly 
twenty feet long and fourteen deep, built entirely of wood, and plas- 
tered (so to speak) with the bark of trees. It rests against a rock 
amid the trees, and is surrounded by a wooden gallery, reached iy 
rough wooden steps. Where is the prince who wQiJd live in such a 
hut now-a-days ? Where are the ministers who would attend coun- 
cil in such a hut ? Yet, here Karl August lived alone, glad to eseape 
from the tedium of etiquette, and the palling pleasures of a little 
court. Here he debated affiiirs of state, not less momentous to him 
because they were trivial in European politics. Here he bathed in 
the Tim running beneath. Here he could see the Garden House of 
his poet, and telegraph to him across the Park. In this single room, 
which was at once dining-room, council-chamber, study, and bed- 
room, the manly duke lived alone for months. 

From the BorTcenhcms a small flight of stone steps conducts us to 
a mimic Buin, and thence a narrow winding path leads to a stone 
monument, interesting as a witness to the growth of a mythos. It is 
an antique column, four feet high, round which a serpent winds, in the 
act of devouring the ofiering cakes on the top. The inscription says, 
Genio Loci. But the Weimer plebs, disregarding antique symbols, 
and imperfectly acquainted with Virgil, has a legend to tell; a legend 
sprung, no one knows whence, rapid and mysterious as the growth 
of fungi, like most legends, to satisfy the imperious craving for 
explanations ; a legend which certifies how, formerly, a huge ser- 
pent dwelt in this spot, the terror of Weimar, until a cunning baker 
bethought him of placing poisoned cakes within the monster's 
reach ; and when the greedy ignorance of the serpent had relieved 
Weimar of the monster, a grateful people erected this monument to 
an energetic and inventive baker. Et voildj cmnme on 4crit I'hi^tovre. 

I will not fatigue the reader by dragging him all over this much 
loved park, which must be enjoyed directly, not through description;* 

* If a liiller description be desired* the reader will find one in the charming pages 
of Stahr's Weimar und Jena, to which I take this occasion of acknowledging a large 


enough for present purposes if it be added that while the summer 
palace of Belvedere is connected with Weimar hy the chestnut avenue, 
the summer palace and park of Tiefiirt is also connected with Weimar 
by a richly-wooded road, the Webicht. This Tiefurt is a tiny little 
place, quite a curiosity of diminutiveness. The park, through which 
runs a branch of the Ilm, is tiny but picturesque. The upper story 
of the palace is a labyrinth of tiny rooms, some of them so small 
that, standing with your back against one wall, you can touch the 
opposite wall with your hand. It was here the Duchess Amalia lived. 

" I have lived here fifty years," said Goethe to Eckermann, '' and 
where have I not been ? but I was always glad to return to Weimar.'' 
The stranger may wonder wherein lies the charm ; but a residence at 
Weimar soon reveals the secret. Among the charms are the envi- 
rons. First there is Ettersburg, with its palace, woods, and park, 
some seven miles distant. Then there is Bercka with its charming 
valley, dear to all pedestrians, within half-a-dozen miles ; a little 
farther is Jena and its enchanting valley, from whose heights we look 
down on the sombre city, rendered illustrious by so many sounding 
names. Jena was to science what Weimar was to poetry. Assembled 
there were men like Griesbach, Paulus, Baumgarten-Crusius, and 
Danz, to teach theology; Schelling, Fichte, Hegel, Reinhold, and 
Pries, to teach philosophy; Loder, Hufeland, Oken, Dobereiner, to 
teach science ; Luden, Schultz, and others, for history. The Schlegels 
and the Humboldts also lent their lustre to the place. Besides Jena, 
we must mention Ilmenau, Eisenach, the Thuringian forests, and the 
valley of the Saal : environs attractive enough for the most restless 

Having thus sketched the main features of the place, it will now 
be desirable to give some indication of the times, that we may under- 
stand the atmosphere in which Goethe lived. Difficult as the restora- 
tion of Weimar has been to me, and only possible through the aid of 
what still remains from the old time, the difficulty has been tenfold 
with regard to the more changing aspects of society and opinion. 
Curiously enough the Germans, famous for writing on all subjects, 
have produced no work on the state of manners and the domestic 
conditions of this much-be-written period. The books on Goetho 
are endless ; there is not one which tells us of the outward circum- 
stances among which he moved. From far and wide I have gathered 
together some details which may aid in forming a picture. 

Remember that we are in the middle of the eighteenth century. 
The French Revolution is as yet only gathering its forces together ; 
nearly twenty years must elapse before the storm breaks. The chasm 



f4 "^ LIFE AND WORKS OF OOETHE. [Book iv. 

between that time and our own is vast and deep. Every detail 
speaks of it. To begin with Science— everywhere the torch of civi- 
hsation — ^it is enough to say that Chemistry did not then exist. 
Abundant materials indeed existed, but that which makes a Science, 
viz., the power of prevision based on quantitative knowledge^ was 
still absent ; and Alchemy maintained its place among the conflicting 
hypotheses of the day. Goethe in Frankfurt was busy with re- 
searches after the '^ virgin earth^'. The philosopher's stone had 
many eager seekers. In 1787, Semler sent to the Academy of Berlin 
his discovery that gold grew in a certain atmospheric salt, when 
kept moist and warm. Haproth, in the name of the Academy, ex- 
amined this salt, and found indeed gold leaf in it — ^which had been 
put there by Semler's servant to encourage his master's credulity. 
This age, so incredulous in religion, was credulous in science. In 
spite of all the labours of the encyclopedists, in spite of all the 
philosophic and religious '' enlightenment", in spite of Voltaire and 
La Mettrie, it was possible for Count St. Germain and Cagliostro to 
delude thousands : and Casanova found a dupe in the Marquise d'UrfS, 
who beUeved he could restore her youth, and make the moon im- 
pregnate her ! It was in 1774 that Mesmer astonished Vienna with 
his marvels of mystic magnetism. The secret societies of Freemasons 
and niuminati, mystic in their ceremonies and chimerical in their 
hopes — ^now in quest of the philosopher's stone, now in quest of the 
perfectibility of mankind — ^a mixture of religious, political, and mys- 
tical reveries, flourished in all parts of Germany, and in all circles. 

With Science in so imperfect a condition, we are sure to find a cor- 
responding poverty in material comfort and luxury. High-roads, for 
example, were only found in certain parts of Germany ; Prussia had 
no chauss^e till 1 787. Milestones were unknown, although finger- 
posts existed. Instead of facilitating the transit of travellers, it was 
thought good political economy to obstruct them, for the longer they 
remained the more money they spent in the country. A century 
earlier, stage coaches were known in England; but in Germany, 
public conveyances, very rude to this day in places where no rail- 
way exists, were few and miserable ; nothing but open carts with 
unstufied seats. Diligences on springs were unknown before 1800 ; 
and what they were, even twenty years ago, many readers doubt- 
less remember. Then as to speed. In 1754 there was "the 
flying coach" running from Manchester to London, but taking four 
days and a half on the journey. In 1 763 there was a coach between 
Edinburgh and London, once a month ; it passed twelve or fourteen 
days on the road; though even in our own stage coach days the 


distance was performed in forty-eight hours. And as England was 
a busy nation, always in a hurry, we may gather from these details 
some idea of the rapidity of German travel. Germans were not 
flurried by agitations as to loss of time : if you travelled post, it 
was *said with pride that seldom more than an hour's waiting was ne- 
cessary before the horses were got ready, — ^at least on frequented 
routes. Mail travelling was at the rate of five English miles in an 
hour and a quarter. Letters took nine days from Berlin to Frank- 
furt, which in 1854 required only twenty-four hours. So slow was 
the communication of news that, as we learn from the Stein corre- 
spondence, the death of Frederick the Great was only known in 
Carlsbad as a rumour a week afterward. '' By this time,'' writes 
Goethe, '" you must know in Weimar if it be true.'' With these 
obstacles to locomotion, it was natural that men travelled but rarely, 
and mostly on horseback. What the inns were may be imagined 
from the infrequency of travellers, and the general state of domestic 

The absence of comfort and luxury (luxury as distinguished from 
ornament) may be gathered from the Memoirs of the time, and from 
such works as Bertuch's Mode Jovmal. Such necessities as good 
locks, doors that shut, drawers opening easily, tolerable knives, 
carts on springs, or beds fit for a Christian of any other than the 
German persuasion, are still rarities in Thunngia ; but in those days, 
when sewers were undreamed of, and a post-oJBSce was only a vision, 
much that we modems consider as comfort was necessarily wanting. 
The furniture, even of palaces, was extremely simple. In the houses 
of wealthy bourgeois, chairs and tables were of common fir ; not until 
the close of the eighteenth century did mahogany make its appear- 
ance. Looking-glasses followed. The chairs were covered with a 
coarse green cloth ; the tables likewise ; and carpets are only now 
beginning to loom upon the national mind as a possible luxury. 
The windows were hung with woollen curtains, when the extrava- 
gance of curtains was ventured on. Easy chairs were unknown; 
the only arm chair allowed was the so-called Orandfather's chair, 
which was reserved for the dignity of grey hairs, or the feebleness 
of age. 

The salon de reception, or drawing-room, into which greatly- 
honoured visitors were shown, had of course a kind of Sunday splen- 
dour, not dimmed by week-day familiarity. There hung the curtains ; 
the walls were adorned with family portraits or some work of native 
talent ; the tables alluring the eye with china, in guise of cups, 
vases, impossible shepherds and very allegorical dogs. Into this 


room tlie honoured visitor was ushered ; and there, no matter what 
the hour, refreshment of some kind was handed. This custom — 
a compound product of hospitality and bad inns — ^Ungered until 
lately in England, and perhaps is still not unknown in provincial 

On eating and drinking was spent the surplus now devoted to 
finery. No one then, except gentlemen of the first water, boasted 
of a gold snufi*-box ; even a gold-headed cane was an unusual ele- 
gance. The dandy contented himself with a silver watch. The fine 
lady blazoned herself with a gold watch and heavy chain ; but it was 
an heirloom ! To see a modem dinner service glittering with silver, 
glass, and china, and to think that even the nobility in those days 
ate off pewter, is enough to make the lapse of time very vivid to us. 
A silver teapot and teatray were held as princely magnificence. 

The manners were rough and simple. The journeymen ate at the 
same table with their masters, and joined in the coarse jokes which 
then passed for hilarity. Filial obedience was rigidly enforced; 
the stick or strap not unfrequently aiding parental authority. Even 
the brothers exercised an almost paternal authority over their 
sisters. Indeed, the position of women was by no means such 
as our women can hear of with patience ; not only were they kept 
under the paternal, marital, and fraternal yoke, but society limited 
their actions by its prejudices still more than it does now. No 
woman of the better class of citizens could go out alone ; the 
servant girl followed her to church, to a shop, or even to the pro- 

The coarseness of language may be imagined from our own lite- 
rature of that period. The roughness of manners is shown by such 
a scene as that in Wilhelm Meister, where the Schone 8eeh in her 
confessions (speaking of high, well-bom society) narrates how, at an 
evening party, forfeits were introduced ; one of these forfeits is, that 
a gentleman shall say something gallant to every lady present ; he 
whispers in the ear of a lady, who boxes his ears, and boxes it with 
such violence that the powder from his hair flies into a lady^s eyes ; 
when she is enabled to see again, it is to see that the husband of the 
lady has drawn his sword, and stabbed the offen&er, and that a duel, 
in the very presence of these women, is only prevented by one of the 
combatants being dragged from the room. 

The foregoing survey would be incomplete without some notice of 
the prices of things ; the more so as we shall learn hereafter that the 
pension Karl August gave Schiller was 200 thalers — about £30 of 
our money ; that the salary of Seckendorff as Kammerhe^r was only 


600 thalers^ or about £100 ; and that the salary Goethe received^ as 
Councillor of Legation, was only 1,200 thalers, about £200 per 
annum. It is necessary I should indicate something like the real 
relation of these sums to the expense of Uving. We find, in 
Schiller's correspondence with Komer, that he hires ft riding-horse 
for sixpence a day (vol. i, p. 84), and gets a manuscript fairly copied ^ 
at the rate of three halfpence a sheet of sixteen pages (vol. i, p. 92) 
with us the charge is twopence for every seventy-two words ; the 
whole of Don Carlos cost but three and sixpence for copying. He 
hires a fiimished apartment, consisting of two rooms and a bedroom, 
for two pounds twelve and sixpence a quarter (Charlotte von Kalb 
writing to Jean Paul, November 1776, says his lodgings will only 
cost him ten dollars, or thirty shillings, a quarter) ; white his male 
servant, who in case of need can act as secretary, is to be had for 
eighteen shillings a quarter (vol. i, p. 111). Beckoning up his ex- 
penses he says, '' Washing, servants, the barber, and such things, 
all paid quarterly, and none exceeding six shillings : so that, speak- 
ing in round numbers, I shall hardly need more than four hundred 
and, fifty dollars'' (vol. ii, p. 94) — ^that is, about £70 a year. Even 
when he is married, and sees a family growing round him, he says, 
" With eight hundred dollars I can live here, in Jena, charmingly — 
recht artig'' (vol. ii, p. 153). 

It is evident that in Weimar they led no very sumptuous life. A 
small provincial town overshadowed by a Court, its modes of Kfe 
were the expression of this contrast. The people, a slow, heavy, un- 
graceful, ignorant, but good-natured,- happy^ honest race, feeding on 
black bread and sausages ; rising higher, there were the cultivated 
classes of employes, artists, and professors; and, higher still, the 
aristocracy. In the theatre, until 1825, the nobility alone were 
allowed admission to the boxes; and when the Jena students crowded 
the pit, elbowing out the Weimar public, that public was forced to 
return home, or jostle with the students for seats in pit and gallery. 
Even when the theatre was rebuilt, and the bourgeoisie was per- 
mitted a place in the boxes, its place was on the left side of the 
house, the right being vigorously reserved for the Vons, This con- 
tinued until 1848 ; since that year of revolutions the public has had 
the place it can pay for. 

It is quite true, the Weimar court but little corresponded with 
those conceptions of grandeur, magnificence, and historical or polit- 
ical importance, with which the name of court is usually associated. 
But just as in gambUng the feelings are agitated less by the great- 
ness of the stake than by the variations of fortune, so in the social 


gambling of court intrigae^ there is the same ambition and agitation, 
whether the green cloth be an empire or a duchy. Within its limits 
Saxe Weimar displayed all that an imperial court displays in larger 
proportions : it had its ministers, its army, its chamberlains, pages, 
and sycophants. Court favour, and disgrace, elevated and de- 
pressed, as if they had been imperial smiles, or autocratic frowns. 
A standing army of six hundred men, with cavaby of fifty hus- 
sars, had its War Department, with war minister, secretary, and 

As the nobles formed the predominating element of Weimar, we 
see at once how, in spite of the influence of E^arl August, and the 
remarkable men he assembled roimd him, no real public for Art could 
be found there. Some of the courtiers played more or less with Art, 
some had real feeling for it; but the majority set decided faces 
against all the heavoi esprits. When the Duchess Amalia travelled 
with Merck in 1778, Weimar was loud in anticipatory grumblings : 
"She wiU doubtless bring back some bel esprit picked up en route!" 
was the common cry. And really when we have learned, as we 
shall learn in a future chapter, the habits of these beaux esprits, and 
their way of making Kfe ^' genial^', impartiality will force us to 
confess i^at this imperfect sympathy on the part of the Vona was not 
without its reason. 

Not without profound significance is this fact that in Weimar the 
poet found a Circle, but no Pubhc. To welcome his productions 
there were friends and admirers ; there was no Nation. Germany 
had no public; nor has it to this day. It was, and is, a collection of 
cities, not a Nation. To appreciate by contrast the fuQ significance 
of such a condition we must look at Greece and Rome. There the 
history of Art tells the same story as is everywhere told by the 
history of human effort. It tells us that to reach the height of per- 
fection there must be the co-operation of the Nation with individual 
Genius. Thus it is necessary for the development of science that 
science should cease to be the speculation of a few, and become the 
minister of the many; from the constant pressure of unsatisfied 
wants, science receives its energetic stimulus; and its highest re- 
ward is the satisfaction of those wants. In Art the same law holds. 
The whole Athenian Nation co-operated with its artists ; and this is 
One cause why Athenian Art rose into unsurpassed splendour. Art 
was not the occupation of a few, ministering to the luxury of a few ; 

* Lest this should appear too ridiculous, I wiU add that one of the small (German 
princes (the Graf von Lunburg Styrum) kept a corps of hussars, which consisted of 
a colonel, six officers, and two privates ! 


it was the luxury of all. Its triumphs were not hidden in galleries 
and museums ; they blazed in the noonday sun ; they were admired 
and criticised by the whole people ; and, as Aristotle expressly says, 
every free citizen was from youth upwards a critic of Art. Sophocles 
wrote for all Athens, and by all Athens was applauded. The theatre 
was open to all free citizens. Phidias and Praxiteles, Scopas and 
Myron, wrought their marvels in brass and marble, as expressions of 
a national faith, and the delights of a national mind. Temples and 
market-places, pubUc groves and pubUc walks, were the galleries 
wherein these sculptors placed their works. The public treasury was 
Uberal in its rewards ; and the rivaliy of private munificence was not 
displayed to secure works for private galleries, but to enrich the 
pubUc possessions. In this spirit the citizens of Gnidos chose to 
continue the payment of an onerous tribute rather than suffer their 
statue of Venus to quit their city. And when some murmurs rose 
against the expense which Pericles was incurring in the building of 
the Parthenon, he silenced those murmurs by the threat of furnishing 
the money from his private purse, and then placing his name on 
the majestic work. 

Stahr, who has eloquently described the effects of such national 
co-operation in Art, . compares the similar influence of pubUcity 
during the Middle Ages, when the great painters and sculptors 
placed their works in cathedrals, — open all day long, in council-houses 
and market-places, whither the people thronged, — with the fact that 
in our day Art finds refuge in the galleries of private persons, or in 
museums closed on Sundays and holidays.* 

Nor is this all. The effect of Art upon the Nation is visible in the 
striking fact that in Greece and Rome the truly great men were crowned 
by the public, not neglected for any artist who pandered to the fashion 
and^the tastes of the few, or who flattered ihe first impressions of the 
many. It was young Phidias whom the Athenialis chose to carve 
the statue of Pallas Athene, and to build the Parthenon. Suppose 
Phidias had been an Englishman, would he have been selected by 
government to give the nation a statue of WeUington, or to build 
the Houses of Parliament ? The names most reverenced by con- 
temporaries in Greece, and in Italy, are the names which posterity 
has declared to be the highest. Necessarily so. The verdict of the 
public, when that public includes the whole intelligence of the nation^ 
w/ust be the correct verdict in Art. 

• See hia Torso, pp. 147-151. 




The Dowager Duchess Amalia. Mile. Gdchhausen. Wieland. Einsiedel. Oorona 
Schr5ter. Bertuoh. MusaBus. Seckendorf. The Duchess Luise. Karl August. 
Grafin Werther. Frau von Stein. Knebel. Herder. 

Having endeavoured to reconstruct some image of Weimar and its 
people, we may now descend from generals to particulars, and sketch 
rapidly the principal figures which wiU move across that scene, during 
the first years of Goethe^s residence. 

The Dowager Duchess Amalia is a very interesting figure. She 
had the Brunswick blood, with its capriciousness^ love of pleasure, 
and frivolity ; but she had also a mind well cultivated, not poorly 
gifted, and ready in appreciating men of talent. Although a niece of 
Frederick the Great, she did not follow the princely fashion of the 
day, and turn her eyes away from German Literature, to fix them 
only upon France. She chose Wieland as the tutor of her son, and 
made hiTn her own dear friend. Schiller, a rash judge of persons, 
and not very keen in his perception of woman's character, wrote to 
Komer, after his first interview with the duchess : '' She has made no 
conquest of me. I cannot Uke her physiognomy. Her intellect is 
extremely limited, nothing interests her but what is based on the sen- 
suous : hence the taste she has, or affects to have, for music, painting, 
and the rest. She is a composer herself, and has set Goethe's Erwin 
unci Elmire to music. She speaks httle ; but has, at any rate, the 
merit of throwing aside all the stifl&iess of ceremony.'' Schiller's 
verdict cannot be accepted by any one who reflects, that, besides her 
appreciation of men of talent, who found delight in her society, she 
learned Greek from Wieland, read Aristophanes, and translated Pro- 
pertius, was a musical composer, a tolerable judge of art, discussed 
politics with the Abb^ Raynal and Greek and Italian Literature with 
ViUoison ; that, moreover, with all her multifarious reading and en- 
joyments, she contrived to superintend the education of her sons, and 
manage her kingdom with unusual success. This is not to be done by 
an '^ extremely limited intellect." 


The '' sensuous basis^' alluded to by Schiller was certainly there. 
One sees it in her portraits. One sees it also in the glimpses of her 
joyous, pleasure-loving existence. Biographers and eulogists omit 
such details ; for in general the biographical mind moves only through 
periods of rhetoric, which may be applied with equal felicity to every 
prince or princess of whom it is the cue to speak. But it is by such 
details that the image of the Duchess can alone be made a livijig one. 
Here, for example, is a sketch of her, given by an anonymous tra- 
veller.* '^ She is small in stature, good-looking, with a very spiritu^ 
elle physiognomy ; she has the Brunswick nose, lovely hands and 
feet, a light yet princely gait, speaks well but rapidly, and has some- 
thing amiable and fascinating in her nature. • . • This evening there 
was a Redoute, tickets one gulden {two francs) each. The Court 
arrived at eight. The Duchess was magnificent, en domino, and bril- 
liant with jewels. She dances well, lightly and gracefully. The 
young princes, who were attired as Zephyr and Amour, also danced 
well. The masquerade was very full, lively, and varied. A faro 
table was laid out: the smallest stake being half a gulden. The 
Duchess staked dollars and half-louis, played generously and lost. 
But as she was glad to dance, she did not play long. She danced 
with every mask who invited her, and stayed till nearly three o'clock, 
when almost everyone had gone home.'' The same writer also speaks 
of another Redoute. '' The Duchess appeared en reine grecque, a 
very beautiful costume, which suited her well. The ball was very 
brilliant ; some students from Jena were there. At the last ball of 
the season, the Duchess sent me one of her own Savoyard dresses, 
and I was fris^ and dressed like a woman by the Countess von Gortz's 
maid. The young Count was likewise dressed as a woman, and we 
went to Court so, dined there, and drove thence to the ball, which 
lasted till six o'clock." 

This pleasure-loving Duchess, who knew so well how to manage 
her kingdom, cared little for the dignities of her state. Accord- 
ing to Wieland, she Hved sometimes in student fashion, especially 
at Belvedere, where student-songs, not always the most decorous, 
rang joyously through the moonlit gardens. Driving once with 
seven friends in a haycart from Tiefurt, and overtaken by a storm, 
she made no more ado but drew over her light clothing Wieland's 
great coat, and in that costume drove on. 

Her letters, especially those to Goethe's mother, several of which 
I have seen, have great heartiness, and the most complete absence 

* Quoted from BsBNOUiLiii by Yshss : Qtichichie der DeuUchen Hofe, vol. xxviii^ 
p. 60. 


of anything like formality. In one of them, I remember, she apolo- 
gises for not having written for some time, not from want of friend- 
ship, but lack of news : to show that she has been thinking of Fran 
Aja, she sends her a pair of garters worked by herself. ^' lAehe 
Frau Aja !'* she writes on another occasion, " my joy at the receipt 
of your letter is not easily described, nor will I attempt it, for true 
feelings are too sacred to be set down in black and white. You 
know, dear mother, what you are to me, and can believe how infi- 
nitely your remembrance of me has rejoiced me.''* 

Beside the figure of the Duchess Amalia, we see that of the merry 
little humpbacked Gochhausen, her maid of honour, by intimates 
named Thusnelda. One sees not why this sprightly little d4mon de 
bonne compagnie should have been named after the wife of Arminius. 
She was a great favourite with Amalia, with Karl August also, who 
was constantly engaged in ^' wit combats'' with her, not always of 
the mildest. She animated society with her devices, and kept up 
a voluminous correspondence with wits and notabilities in other 
cities. She was very fond of Goethe, and wrote constantly to his 
mother. But Karl August was her darling; perhaps because he 
plagued her so incessantly. As a sample of the lengths to which 
tricks were carried, consider the following anecdote, which I have 
from Frau von Goethe, who had it from her father-in-law, an accom- 
plice in the deed. One night as Thusnelda came up the stairs 
leading to her bedroom, her candle was blown out. Not much 
heeding this, she went on, reached the gallery into which her bed- 
room opened, and walked on, feeling for the door. There is no great 
difiiculty in finding the door of your own room in the dark, yet 
Thusnelda groped, and groped, and groped in vain : no lock met her 
hand, a smooth blank wall allowed her hand to pass and repass over 
it with increasing confusion. Where was the door? Where was 
she ? After groping some time, her perplexity growing into unde- 
fined alarm, she descended to the duchess's room ; but she found 
that closed ; the duchess was asleep ; and her gentle knockings were 
not answered. Upstairs she went again, again to pass her hands 
along the wall, but still to find no door. The night was cold, and 
she was half-frozen with cold and fear before the mystery was ex- 
plained : the Duke and Goethe had removed her door, and built up 
the wall in its place. 

WiELAND had established his paper, the Teutsclie Merkur, which 

• Hero is another extract, which I leave in the original : " Ach Mutter, Mutter ! 
— sie errathen wohl meine Gedanken ! was macht der alte Yater ? or sollte ja nicht 
wohl seyn. Qrttssen sie ihn von mir, und das tausendmal. Lebon Sie wohl, beste 
Mutter ; behalten Sie mir lieb und denken fleissig an ihre Freundin. Amalia." 


was not without its influence. When he ceased to be the prince's 
tutor, he remained the valued friend of the duchess. He was in all 
the pleasure parties. So also was Einsiedel, who, at first court 
page, became chamberlain to the Duchess Amaha in 1776. A jovial, 
careless epicurean ; everywhere known as Vami, from his goodnature 
and eccentricity ; filling the mouth of gossip with his extravagances • 
poet and musician in a small way; •actor and inventor of amuse- 
ments, his name meets us on every page of the Weimar chronicles. 

Einsiedel makes us think of Corona Schbotee, the Hofadiigerin 
(singer to the court — ^we have no such word, because we have no 
such thing). Goethe had known this beautiful and accomplished 
creature while he was a student at Leipzig, and when, shortly after 
his arrival at Weimar, he made an expedition to Leipzig with the 
Duke, he saw her there again, and induced her to come to Weimar. 
She was the grace of their private theatricals, and the original per- 
senator of Iphigenia. 

'' ALs eine Blame zeigt sie sich der Welt^" 

says Goethe of her, in that passage wherein he has immortalised her 
and Mieding.* What a description ! 

She« like a flower^ opens to the world. 

Corona painted, sang, played, was learned in music, and declaimed 
with peculiar elegance, — 

" The Muses lavished on her every art." 

According to Karl August, she was ^' marble-beautiful, but marble- 
cold'^ ; Goethe says of her : 

" Und hoch erstaont, seht Ihr in ihr vereint 
£in Ideal^ das Kiinstlem nur erscheint.^f 

There is a- notion cun^ent, originating with Riemer, but shown by 
SchoU to be very improbable, that Goethe had a liaison with Corona. 
I not only agree with SchoU's reasoning, but can corroborate it by 
the testimony of the Fran von Goethe, who assured me her father- 
in-law expressly and emphatically told her that he never had a pas- 
sion for any actress. Vamhagen von Ense suspects that Corona 
was privately married to Einsiedel; if not, her letters, still extant 
although inedited, prove that ^ey were on the footing of lovers. 

Another chamberlain, poet, and musician was Seckendorf, who 
translated Werther into French, a year after Goethe's arrival {Lch 

• See the poem Mieding's Tod. 
t And gently awed, you feel in her combined 
What is Ideal in the artist's mind. 


Souffran^^es du Jeune Werther. Par le B. S. d. S. Erlangen, 1776) ; 
and to these gay companions must be added Bodb^ the translator of 
Smollett ; Bebtuch, the treasurer and the translator of Cervantes ; 
and MnsjBUS^ a passionate lover of gardening, who gave Weimar its 
pleasant Erholung, and who might be seen daily crossing the quiet 
streets with a cup of coflFee in one hand^ his garden tools in the 
other, trudging along to that loved retreat. At other times he 
might be seen plying the ex-drummer, Ruppler, with inspiring 
schnapps to unlock the casket of his memory, wherein were stored 
the legends and superstitions of the peasantry which Musaeus after- 
wards dressed up in his own style in his celebrated Volksmdrchen. 
There was much humour in Musasus ; he furnished his Weimar friends 
with many a pleasant quip and crank. Heinrich Schmidt tells the 
following. One day Musaaus, after a long illness, came to dine with 
the Schmidts. Every one was amazed at his healthy aspect. He 
received their reiterated compUments with perfect gravity, till his 
wife, unable longer to contain herself, confessed that before setting 
out he had rouged his cheeks !* 

These are the principal figures of Amalia^s Court. We may now 
glance at the Court of the reigning Duke and Duchess — Karl August 
and Luise. 

Of the Duchess Luise no one ever speaks but in terms of venera- 
tion. She was one of those rare beings who, through circumstances 
the most trying, as well as through the ordinary details of life, 
manifest a noble character. The Queen of Prussia and the Duchess 
of Saxe- Weimar are two of the great figures in modem German 
history ; they both opposed the chief man of the age. Napoleon, and 
were both admired by him for that very opposition. Luise was of a 
cold temperament, somewhat rigid in her enforcement of etiquette 
(unlike the dowager), and wore to the last the old costume which 
had been the fashion in her youth ; apt in the early years of her 
marriage to be a little querulous with her husband, but showing 
throughout their lives a real and noble friendship for him. 

And he was worthy of that friendship, much as his strange, and in 
many respects opposite nature, may have tried her. Karl August, 
whom Frederick the Great pronounced, at fourteen, to be the prince, 
of all he had seen, who gave the greatest promise, was in truth a 
very mixed, but very admirable, character. He can afford to be 
looked at more closely and familiarly than most princes. He was a 
man whose keen appreciation of genius not only drew the most 
notable men of the day to Weimar, but whose own intrinsically fine 
• ScHKiDT : Errinerungen einea weimariachen Veteranen, p. 21. 


qualities Icept them there. It is easy for a prince to assemble men of 
talent. It is not easy for a prince to make them remain beside him, 
in the full employment of their faculties, and in reasonable enjoyment 
of their position. Karl August was the prince who with the smallest 
means produced the greatest result in Germany. He was a man of 
restless activity. His eye was on every part of his dominions ; his en- 
deavours to improve the condition of the people were constant. The 
recently published correspondence shows how active were his intel- 
lectual sympathies. In his tastes no man in Germany was so simple^ 
except his dearest friend, Goethe, with whom, indeed, he had many 
cardinal points in conmion, I remember, on first seeing their busts 
together, being struck with a sort of faint family resemblance between 
them. Karl August might have been a younger brother, considerably 
''animahsed^', but still belonging to the family. They had both, on the 
paternal side, Thuringian blood in their veins ; and in many respects 
Amalia and Prau Aja were akin. But while Karl August had the 
active, healthy, sensuous, pleasure-loving temperament of his friend, 
he wanted the tact which never allowed Goethe, except in his wildest 
period, to overstep limits ; he wanted the tenderness and chivalry 
which made the poet so uniformly acceptable to women. He was 
witty, but his ban-mots are mostly of that kind which, repeated after 
dinner, are not considered fit for drawing-room publication. Very 
characteristic is it of him, who had bestowed unusual pains in col- 
lecting a Bihliotheca Erotica^ that when Schiller wrote the Maid of 
Orleans he fancied Schiller was going to give another version of La 
Pucelle, and abetted his mistress, the Frau von Heygendorf, in her 
refusal to play the part of the rehabilitated Maiden ! He was rough, 
soldierly, brusque, and imperious. He*was at home when in garrison 
with Prussian soldiers, but out of his element when at foreign 
Courts, and not always at ease in his own. Goethe describes him 
longing for his pipe at the Court of Brunswick in 1774 : '^ De son 
cote notre bon Due s^ennuie terriblement, il cherche un interet, il 
n'y voudrait pas etre pour rien, la marche tres bien mesur^e de tout 
ce qu^on fait ici le gene, il faut qu^il renonce a sa chere pipe et une 
fee ne pourroit lui rendre un service plus agreable qu^en changeant 
ce palais dans une cabane de charbonnier.^^* 

In a letter (unprinted), he writes to Goethe, then at Jena, saying 
he longs to be with him to watch sunrise and sunset, for he can^t see 
the sunset in Gotha, hidden as it is by the crowd of courtiers, who 
are so comme il faut, and know their '^ fish duty^^ with such terrible 

* Brief e an Frau von Stein, in, p. 85. The French is Goethe's, as also the spelling 
and accentuation, or rather want of aocentaation. 



accuracy, that every evening he feels inclined to give himself to the 
devil. His delight, when not with soldiers, was to be with dogs, or 
with his poet alone in their simple houses, discussing philosophy, and 
'^ talking of lovely things that conquer death.^' He mingled freely 
with the people. At Ihnenau he and Goethe put on the miners^ 
dress, descended into the mines, and danced all night with peasant 
girls. Eiding across country, over rock and stream, in manifest 
peril of his neck ; teazing the maids of honour, sometimes carrying 
this so far as to oflfend his more princely wife ; wandering alone with 
his dogs, or with some joyous companion ; seeking excitement in 
wine, and in making love to pretty women, without much respect of 
station ; offending by his roughness and wilfulness, though never 
estranging his friends — ^Karl August, often grieving his admirers, 
was, with all his errors, a genuine and admirable character. His in- 
tellect was active, his judgment, both of men and things, sound and 
keen. Once, when there was a discussion about appointing Fichte 
as professor at Jena, one of the opponents placed a work of Fichte's 
in the Duke^s hands, as sufficient proof that such a teacher could not 
hold a chair. Karl August read the book — and appointed Fichte. 
He had great aims ; he also had the despotic will which bends circum- 
stances to its determined issues. '^ He was always in progress,^' said 
Goethe to Eckermann ; '' when anything failed, he dismissed it at 
once from his mind. I often bothered myself how to excuse this or 
that failure ; but he ignored every shortcoming in the cheerfullest 
way, and always went forward to something new.^* 

Such was Karl August, as I conceive him from the letters of the 
period, and from the reports of those who knew him. Bight years 
younger than Goethe, he attached himself to him as to a brother. 
We shall see this attachment and its reciprocal influence in the fol- 
lowing pages ; clouds sometimes gather, quarrels and dissatisfaction 
are not absent (from what long friendship are they absent ?) ; but 
fifty years of mutual service, and mutual love, proved the genuine- 
ness of both their characters. 

Among the Weimar notables, F»au von Stein must always have 
conspicuous eminence. In a future chapter we shall learn more of 
her. Enough for the present to say that she was Hofdame (Lady of 
Honour) to the Duchess Amalia, and for many years passionately 
loved by Goethe. Besidp her we may mention the Countess von 
Werther, who was to Karl August what the Baroness von Stein was 
to Goethe. She, as is well known, is the original of the charming 
Countess in Wilhelm Meister, and her husband was still more eccen- 
tric than the eccentric Count. It is related of him that once when 


the Duke and some other illustrious guests were in his chateau, he 
collected several of his peasants, dressed them in his livery, and 
blacked their faces to make them pass as negroes ! 

To close this list we have Major von Knebel, the translator of 
Lucretius and Propertius, an honest, upright, satirical republican, 
the intimate friend of Kari August and Goethe, the '' philanthropic 
Timon,'' as Herder called him, severe against all shams and insin- 
cerities, but loving the human nature he declaimed against. As one 
looks upon his rough, genial, Socratic head, one seems to hear 
the accents of an independent thoroughly honest nature give weight 
to what he says. 

I have omUited Herder. He did not come to Weimar till after 
Goethe, irfd indeed was drawn thither by Goethe, whose admiration 
for him, begun at Strasburg, continued unabated. The strange 
bitterness and love of sarcasm in Herder's nature, which could not 
repel the young student, did not alter the aflfection of the man. In 
one of Goethe's unpublished letters to the Duchess Amalia, there is 
an urgent appeal on behalf of Herder, whose large family had to be 
supported on very straitened means; the Duke had promised to 
provide for one of the children, and Goethe writes to Amalia, begging 
her to do the same for another. No answer coming to this appeal, 
or at any rate no prompt notice being taken, he writes again more 
urgently, adding, that if she does not provide for the child, he 
(Goethe), out of his small income, will ! And this was at a time 
when Herder was most bitter against Goethe. Well might Merck 
exclaim: ''No one can withstand the disinterestedness of this 




This was the circle into wliicli Goethe entered in all the splendour of 
youth^ beauty, and fame : Youth, which, according to thecfine cfiti- 
ception of the Greeks, is '' the herald of Venus^' ; Beauty^ which 
those Greeks adored as the splendour of Truth ; and Fame, which 
has at all times been a halo dazzling to mortal eyes. Thus equipped 
for conquest, how can we wonder that he conquered ? Even Amalia, 
angry with him for having ridiculed her darUng Wieland, could not 
withstand the magic of his presence. Her love of genius left her no 
choice. She was fascinated by his wild ways, and by his splendid 
talents. One moment he startled her with a paradox, the next mo- 
ment he sprang from his seat, waltzing aud whirling round the room 
with antics which made her scream with laughter. And Wieland ? — 
he was conquered at once. He shall speak for himself, in a letter 
written after their first interview : ^^ How perfectly I felt, at the first 
glance, he was a man after my own heart ! How I loved the mag- 
nificent youth as I sat beside him at table I All that I can say (after 
more than one crisis which I have endured) is this : since that morn- 
ing my soul is as full of Goethe as a dew drop of the morning sun. 
... I believe the Godlike creature will remain longer with us than 
he intended ; and if Weimar can do anything, his presence will ac- 
comphsh it." This is very honourable to Wieland : Nestor gazes 
with unenvious delight upon the young Achilles. Heroic eyes are 
always proud to recognise heroic proportions. 

After Wieland and the Duchess, the rest were easy to conquer. 
'^ He rose like a star in the heavens," says Knebel, " Everybody 
worshipped him, especially the women." In the costume of his own 
Werther, which was instantly adopted by the Duke, he seemed the 
ideal of a poet. To modems there are no very sentimental sugges- 
tions in a costume which was composed of blue coat and brass buttons, 
topboots, and leather breeches, the whole surmounted by powder 
and pigtail ; but in those days this costume was the sujggestion of 


everything tender and romantic. Werther had consecrated it.* The 
Duke not only adopted it, but made all around him adopt it also, 
sometimes paying the tailor's bill himself. Wieland alone was ex- 
cepted ; he was too old for such masqueradings. 

Thoroughly to appreciate the effect of Goethe's influence with 
women, we must remember the state of feeling and opinion at the 
time. Those were the days of gallantry, the days of 

" Pafib, paints^ and patchee^ powders, billets doux." 

The laxity of German morals differed from the more audacious licen- 
tiousness of France : it had sentimentalism, in lieu of gaiety and 
luxuriousness, for its basis. The heart of a French marquise was 
l<At over a supper table sparkling with champagne and hon-mots ; 
the heart of a German Grafin yielded more readily to moon-light, 
melancholy, and a copy of verses. Wit and audacity were the 
batteries for a Frenchwoman; the German was stormed with 
sonnets, and a threat of suicide. For the one, Lothario needed 
sprightliness and hmi ton; for the other, turbulent disgust at all 
social arrangements, expressed in interjectional rhetoric, and a de- 
portment outrageous to all conventions. It is needless to add that 
marriage was to a great extent what Sophie Amould with terrible 
wit called it — "the sacrament of adultery^'; and that on the subject of 
the sexes the whole tone of feeling was low. Poor, simple, earnest 
Schiller, whom no one will accuse of laxity, admired Lea Liaisons 
Bangereuses, and saw no reason why women should not read it; 
although to our age the infamy of that book is so great as to stamp 
a brand upon the society which produced and applauded it. Yet 
even Schiller, who admired this book, was astounded at the con- 
dition of women at Weimar. " There is hardly one of them,'^ he 
writes to Komer, '' who has not liad a liaison. They are all co- 
quettes. . . . One may very easily fall into an ^ affair of the heart,^ 
though it will not hist any time.'^ It was thought, apparently, that 
since Eros had wings, he must use them — and fly. 

With this tone of society we can understand how, as Goethe in 
after-life confessed to Eckermann, the first years at Weimar were 
'^ perplexed with love affairs". A great admirer of women, and 
greatly admired by them, it was natural he should fall into their 
snares. Many charmers are named; among them, Fraulein von 
Kalb, Corona Schroter, and Kotzebue's sister, Amalia : but I am 

* It shotdd be remembered, that in Germany, at that time, hooU were only worn 
in very bad weather j and in the presence of women no one ever appeared except in 
shoes and silk stockings. 



bonnd to say that, after the most diligent inquiry, I can find rvo re- 
liable evidence for believing any one of those named to have been 
really loved by him. We must content ourselves with the fact of 
his having flirted considerably : making love to every bright pair of 
eyes which for a moment could make him believe what he said.* 

For the first few months he gave himself up to the excitement of 
this new life. Among other things he introduced skating. Weimar 
had hitherto seen no gentleman on the ice; but now, Klopstock 
having made skating famous by his poetry, Goethe made it fashion- 
able by his daring ^grace. The Duchess soon excelled in the art. 
Skating on the Schwansee became '' the rage". Sometimes the 
banks were illuminated with lamps and torches, and music and fire- 
works animated the scene. The Duchess and ladies, masked as 
during carnival, were driven in sledges over the noisy ice. " We 
are somewhat mad here,'' Goethe writes to Merck, ^' and play the 
devil's own game." Wieland's favourite epithet for him was wiithig 
— outrageous ; and wilthig he was. Strange stories are told of him, 
now dashing across the ice, now loosening his long hair in Bertuch's 
room, and, with locks flowing over his shoulders, whirling round in 
mad Bacchante waltz; and finally, standing in the Jena market 
place with the Duke, by the hour together, smacking huge sledge 
whips for a wager. Imagine a Duke and a Poet thus engaged in a 
public market place I 

His constant companion, and in all devilries and dissipation his 
most jovial associate, was Karl August. All ceremony was laid 
aside between them. They dined together, often shared the same 
bedroom, and called each other by the brotherly thou. "Goethe 
will never leave this place again," writes Wieland ; '* K. A. can no 
longer swim or wade without hinu The court, or rather his liaison 
with the Duke, wastes his time, which is really a great pity — ^and 
yet — ^with so magnificent and godlike a creature nothing is ever lost !" 
Weimar was startled in its more respectable circles by the conduct 
of these two, and their associates: conduct quite in keeping with 
the period named " the genial."f In their orgies they drank wine 
out of skulls (as Byron and his friends did in their wild days), and 
in ordinary intercourse exhibited but a very mitigated respect for 
meum and hmm, borrowing handkerchiefs and waistcoats which 

* " Icli log und trog mich bei alien htibschen Gesiolitem hemm, and hatte den 
Vortheil immer ein Augenblick zu glauben waja ich sagte," he says in a letter to the 
Frau von Stein, vol. i, p. 5. 

t It is difficult to find an English word to express the German genial, which means 
peitaining to genius. The genial period was the period when every extravagance 
was excused on the plea of genius. 


were never returned. The favourite epithet of that day was ^' in- 
finite '^ Genius drank infinitely, loved infinitely, and swallowed 
infinite sausages. 

But the poet's nature soon wearies of such scenes. After some 
two months of dissipation, in masking, skating, hunting, drinking, 
and dicing, the want to be once more among simple people and 
lovely scenes drove him away from Weimar to Waldeck. Amid the 
crowded tumult of life he ever kept his soul sequestered ; and from 
the hot air of society he broke impatiently away to the serenity of 
soHtude. While on this journey along the pine-clad mountains, 
there came over him a feeling of the past^ in which the image of 
Lili painfully reappeared. 

He was called back to Weimar by the Duke, impatient of his 
absence ; and, while debating in his own mind whether he should 
accept a place there, or return to Frankfurt, he began to take 
his seat, as a guest, in the Privy Council. He had tried the 
Court, and now he was about to try what virtue lay in government. 
'^ I am here as if at home,'' so runs one of his letters, '' and the 
Duke daily becomes dearer to me." Indeed his father's prognosti- 
cations had failed. The connection between his son and the Duke 
was of a totally different kind from that between Voltaire and Fritz. 
In secret, Voltaire despised the verses of his patron, as his patron 
in secret despised the weakness of Voltaire. A few unguarded ex- 
pressions were enough to snap the link which bound them together; 
but a lifetime only deepened the regard of Goethe and Karl August. 
Nor must it be supposed that their friendship was merely that of 
boon-companions. Both had high aims and strong wills. Prince 
Halmight recreate himself with Falstaff, Pistol, Bardolph and the 
rest; but while chucking Mrs. Quickly under the chin, he knew he was 
one day to be England's lord. Karl August and Goethe were not 
the men to lose themselves in the fleeting hours of dissipation; 
serious, steady business was transacted almost the moment before 
some escapade. In their retreat at Ilmenau the poet writes : 

Mein Carl nnd ich vergessen hier 
Wie seltsam uns ein tiefes Schicksal leitet. 
IJnd ach ! ich fuhl'si im BtiUen werden wir 
Zu nenen Soenen vorbereitet. 

" My Karl and I here forget the strange mysterious Fate which 
guides us; and I feel that in these quiet moments we are preparing 
for new scenes." Yes, they learned ^' in the happy present to fore- 
cast the future." 

The Duke knew what he was doing when he overstepped aU pre- 


cedent, and, in June 1776, elected Goethe to the post of Geheime 
Legations Rath, with a seat and voice in the Privy Council, and a 
salary of 1200 thalers. In writing to Goethe^s father, the Duke in- 
timated that there was absolute freedom of leaving the service at 
will, and that indeed the appointment was a mere formality, no 
measure of his afTection. " Goethe can have but one position — ^that 
of my friend. All others are beneath him/^ 

The post of Geheime Legations Rath at Weimar is not a very 
magnificent post; and the salary of 1200 thalers (about 200Z.) seems 
still less magnificent when we remember that at that period the 
King of Prussia gave the Barberini, an Italian dancer, exactly ten 
times the sum. But, such as it was, the appointment created great 
noise. Weimar was thunderstruck. The favour shown to Wieland 
had not passed without scandal; but alarming indeed was this eleva- 
tion of a Frankfurt bourgeois. A poet, who had gone through none 
of the routine of business, whose life was anything but 'respectable,' 
to be lifted suddenly over the plodding heads of legitimate aspirants! 
If this was to be, what reward could meritorious mediocrity expect ? 
what advantage had slowly-acquired routiniaiy knowledge ? 

So murmured scandaUsed officials and their friends. At last these 
murmurs expressed themselves distinctly in the shape of a protest. 
The Duke thought the act worthy of a deliberate justification, and 
with his own hand added these words to the protocol of the acts of 
his ministry : '^ Enlightened persons congratulate me on possessing 
such a man. His genius and capacity are well known. To employ 
a man of such a stamp in any other functions than those in which he 
can render available the extraordinary gifts he possesses, is to abuse 
them. As to the observation that persons of merit may think them- 
selves unjustly passed over : I observe, in the first place, that no- 
body to my knowledge, in my service, has a right to reckon on an 
equal degree of favour ; and I add that I will never consent to be 
governed by mere length of service or rotation in my choice of a 
person whose functions place him in such immediate relation to my- 
self, and are so important to the* happiness of my people. In such 
a case I shall attend to nothing but the degree of confidence I can 
repose in the person of my choice. The public ppinion which perhaps 
censures the admission of Dr. Goethe to my council without having 
passed through the previous steps of Amtmann, Professor, Kamme- 
rath, or Regierungsrath, produces no effect on my own judgment. 
The world forms its opinion on prejudices ; but I watch and work — 
as every man must who wishes to do his duty — not to make a noise. 


not to attract the applause of the world, but to justify my conduct to 
God and my conscience.^' 

Assuredly we may echo M. Dumont's sentiment, that '^ the prince, 
who, at nineteen, wrote those words, was no ordinary man/' He 
had not only the eye to see greatness, he had also the strong Will to 
guide his conduct according to his views, untrammelled by routine 
and formulas. ^' Say what you will, it is only like can recognise 
like, and a prince of great capacity will always recognise and cherish 
greatness in his servants.''* People saw that the Duke was resolved. 
Murmurs were silenced ; or only percolated the gossip of private 
circles, till other subjects buried them, as all gossip is buried. 

The mode of life which the genial company led was not only the 
subject of gossip in Weimar, it grew and grew as scandals grow, not 
losing substance on the way, and reached the ears of distant friends. 
Thus, only a month before the appointment, Klopstock wrote to 
Goethe a letter which scandal extorted from friendship. 

'' Hambv/rg, 8th of May, 1 776. 
'' Here is a proof of my friendship, dearest Goethe ! It is some- 
what difiBcult, I confess, to give it, but it must be given. Do not 
fancy that I wish to preach to you about your doings ; or that I 
judge harshly of you because you have other views than mine. But 
your views and mine quite set aside, what will be the inevitable con- 
sequence if your present doings continue. The Duke, if he continues 
to drink as he does, instead of strengthening, as he says, his consti- 
tution, will ruin it, and will not live long. Young men of powerful 
constitutions— and that the Duke is not — ^have in this way early 
perished. The Germans have hitherto, and with justice, complained 
that their princes would have nothing to do with authors. They now 
gladly make an exception in favour of the Duke. But what a justi- 
fication will not the other princes have, if you continue your present 
tone ? If only that should happen which I feel wiU happen I The 
Duchess wiU perhaps still subdue her pain, for she has a strong, 
manly intellect. But that pain will become grief! And can that be 
so suppressed ? Louisa's grief, Goethe ! .... I must add a word 
about Stolberg. He ff^es to Weimar out of firiendship for the Duke. 
He must also Uve well with him. But how ? In his style ? No ! 
unless he, too, becomes altered, he will go away. And then what 
remains for him? Not in Copenhagen, not in Weimar. I must 
write to Stolberg ; what shall I say to him ? You may please your- 
self about showing this letter to the Duke. I have no objection 
* Goethe in Eckermawn, m, p. 232. 


against it. On the contrary ; for he is assuredly not yet arrived at 
that point when he will not listen to the honest word of a friend. 

^' Klopstock.^' 

Goethe's answer, dated the 2l8t of May, a fortnight later, there- 
fore, runs thus : 

'^ In future, spare us such letters, dear Klopstock ! They do no 
good, and only breed bad blood. You must feel yourself that I have 
no answer to make. Either I must, Uke a schoolboy, begin a Pater 
peccavi, or sophistically excuse, or as an honest fellow defend, and 
perhaps a mingling of all these might express the truth, but to what 
purpose ? Therefore, not a word more between us on this subject. 
Believe me I should not have a moment's rest if I replied to all such 
admonitions. It pained the Duke a moment to think it was Klop- 
stock. He loves and honours you ; you know I do the same. Good 
bye. Stolberg must come all the same. We are no worse; and 
with God's help will be better than what he has seen us." 

To this Klopstock indignantly replied — 

'' You have much misunderstood the proof of my friendship, which 
was great, precisely because of my reluctance to mix myself unasked 
in the affairs of others. And as you include all such letters and all 
such admonitions (your expressions are as strong as that) in the 
same class with the letter which contained this proof of my friend- 
ship, I hereby declare you unworthy of that friendship. Stolberg 
shall not come, if he listens to me, or rather if he listens to his own 

The breach thus made was never repaired. Stolberg did not come 
to Weimar ; and Klopstock wrote no more. 

To return : whatever basis there may have been for the reports 
which Gossip magnified, certain it is that the Duke did not forget 
the cares of state in these wild orgies. Both he and his friend wQre 
very active, and very serious. If Weimar, according to the historian 
of Germany,* stands as an illustrious exception among the German 
Courts, it was because Karl August, upheld by his friend, knew how 
to carry into earnest practice the axiom . of Trederick the Great : 
'' A king is but the first of subjects." Goethe's beneficent activity 
is seen less in such anecdotes as those often cited of his opening a 
subscription for Burger to enable him to complete his translation of 
Homer, and of his relieving Jung Stilling from distress, than in the 
constant and democratic sympathy with which he directed the Duke's 

• Menzel, ccxh. 


That he had not the grave deportment of a councillor is very 
evident. Imagine him as in this anecdote related by Gleim : " Soon 
after Goethe had written Werther I came to Weimar, and wished to 
know him. I had brought with me the last Musen Almanack, a 
literary novelty, and read here and there a poem to the company 
in which I passed the evening. While I was reading, a young man, 
booted and spurred, in a short green footing-jacket thrown open, 
came in and mingled with the audience. I had scarcely remarked 
his entrance. He sat down opposite to me and listened attentively. 
I scarcely knew what there was about him that particularly struck 
me, except a pair of brilliant black Italian eyes. But it was decreed 
that I should know more of him. 

'^ During a short pause, in which some gentlemen and ladies were 
discussing the merits of the pieces I had read, lauding some and 
censuring others, the gallant young sportsman (for such I took him 
to be) arose from his chair, and bowing with a most courteous and 
ingratiating air to me, offered to relieve me from time to time in 
reading, lest I should be tired. I could do no less than accept so 
polite an offer, and immediately handed him the book. But oh ! 
Apollo and all ye Muses — not forgetting the Graces — ^what was I 
then to hear ? At first, indeed, things went on smoothly enough : 

Die Zephyr*!! lauschte!!. 

Die Bflclie rauschten. 

Die Senile 

Verbreitet ihr Licht !iiit Woiii!e — 

the somewhat more solid, substantial fare of Voss, Stolberg and 
Burger was delivered in such a manner that no one had any reason 
to complain. 

" All at once, however, it was as if some wild and wanton devil 
had taken possession of the young reader, and I thought I saw the 
Wild Huntsman bodily before me. He read poems that had no exist- 
ence in the Almanach; broke out into all possible modes and dialects. 
Hexameters, Iambics, doggerel verses one after another, or blended 
in strange confusion, came tumbling out in torrents. What wild and 
humorous fancies did he i\ot combine that evening ! Amidst them 
came such noble, magnificent thoughts, thrown in detached and 
flitting, that the authors to whom he ascribed them must have 
thanked God on their knees if they had fallen upon their desks. 

'' As soon as the joke was discovered, universal merriment spread 
through the room. He put everybody present out of countenance in 
one way or the other. Even my MaBcenasship, which I had always 
regarded it as a sort of duty to exercise towards young authors. 


poets, and artists, had its turn. Though he praised it highly on the 

one side, he did not forget to insinuate on the other that I claimed a 

sort of property in the individuals to whom I afforded support and 

countenance. In a little fable composed extempore in doggerel 

verses, he likened me wittily enough to a worthy and most enduring 

turkey hen, that sits on a great heap of eggs of her own and other 

people's, and hatches them with infinite patience ; but to whom it 

sometimes happens to have a chalk egg put under her instead of a 

real one ; a trick at which she takes no offence. 


''' That is either Goethe or the Devil !' cried I to Wieland, who 
sat opposite me. ' Both,' he replied.'' 

It is worth bearing in mind what the young Goethe was, that we 
may the better understand the reason of what he became. No 
sooner had he commenced his career as politician, than he began to 
tone down the extravagance of his demeanour ; without foregoing 
any enjoyments, he tried to accord more with those in whom a staid 
demeimour was necessitated by their more flagging pulses of lethargic 
Hfe. One month after his appointment Wieland writes of him : 
'' Goethe did in truth, during the first months of his visit here, 
scandalise most people (never me) ; but from the moment that he 
decided on becoming a man of business, he has conducted himself 
with blameless ato^poawq and all worldly prudence." Elsewhere 
he says : '^ Goethe, with aU his real and apparent sauvagerie, has, in 
his Kttle finger, more cmiduite and savoir faire than all the court 
parasites, Boniface sneaks, and political cobweb-spinners have in 
their whole bodies and souls. So long as Karl August lives no 
power can remove him." 

As we familiarise ourselves with the details of this episode, there 
appears less and less plausibility in the often iterated declamation 
against Goethe on the charge of his having ^^ sacrificed his genius to 
the court." It becomes indeed a singularly foolish display of 
rhetoric. Let us for a moment consider the charge. He had to 
choose a career. That of poet was then, as it is still, terribly de- 
lusive ; verse could create fame, but no money : fama and fames 
were then, as now, in terrible contiguity. No sooner is the necessity 
for a career admitted than much objection falls to the ground ; for 
those who reproach him with having wasted his time on court 
festivities, and the duties of government which others could have 
done as well, must ask whether he would have saved that time 
had he followed the career of jurisprudence and jostled lawyers 
through the courts at Frankfurt ? or would they prefer seeing him 
reduced to the condition of poor Schiller, wasting so much of his 


precious life in literary ' hackwork,' translating French books for a 
miserable pittance? Time, in any case, would have been claimed; 
in return for that given to Karl August, he received, as he con- 
fesses in the poem addressed to the duke, " what the great seldom 
bestow— affection, leisure, confidence, garden and house. No one 
have I had to thank but him ; and much have I wanted, who, as a 
poet, ill-understood the arts of gain. If Europe praised me, what 
has Europe done for me ? Nothing. Even my works have been an 
expense to me.'' 

In 1801, writing to his mother on the complaints uttered against 
him by those who judged falsely of his condition, he says they 
only saw what he gave up, not what he gained— they could not 
comprehend how he grew daily richer, though he daily gave up so 
much. He confesses that the narrow circle of a burgher life would 
fiave ill-accorded with his ardent and wide-sweepiQg spirit. Had he 
remained at Frankfurt, he would have been ignorant of ibhe world. 
But here the panorama of life was unrolled before him, and his 
experience was everyway enlarged. Did not Leonardo da Vinci 
spend much of his time charming the court of Milan with his poetry 
and lute-playing? did he not also spend time in mechanical and 
hydrostatical labours for the state ? No reproach is lifted against his 
august name; no one cries out against his being false to his genius ; 
no one rebukes him for having painted so little at one period. . The 
''Last Supper" speaks for him. Will not Tasso, Iphigenia, Her^ 
mann und Dorothea, Faust, Meister, and the long list of Goethe's 
works, speak for him ? 

I have dwelt mainly on the dissipation of his tims, because the 
notion that a court life affected his genius by ''corrupting his mind" 
is preposterous. No reader of this biography, it is to be hoped, 
will fail to see the true relations in which he stood to the duke ; 
how free they were from anything like servility, or suppression of 
genuine impulse. Indeed one of the complaints against him, accord- 
ing to the unexceptionable authority of Riemer, was that made by 
the subalterns, "of his not being sufficiently attentive to court 
etiquette." To say, as Niebuhr says, that the " court was a DaHlah 
to which he sacrificed his locks," is profoundly to misunderstand his 
genius, profoundly to misread his life. Had his genius been of that 
stormy kind which produces great Reformers and great Martyrs, — 
had it been his mission to agitate mankind by words which, re- 
verberating to their inmost recesses, called them to lay down their 
lives in the service of an Idea, — ^had it been his tendency to meditate 
upon the far-off destinies of man, and sway men by the coercion of 


grand representative abstractions— then, indeed, we might say his 
place was aloof from the motley throng, and not in sailing down the 
swiftly-flowing stream to sounds of mirth and music on the banks. 
But he was not a Reformer, not a Martyr. He was a Poet, whose 
religion was Beauty, whose worship was of Nature, whose aim was 
Culture. His mission was to paint Life, and for that it was 
requisite he should see it. Happier circumstances might indeed 
have surrounded him, and given him a greater sphere. It would 
have been very different, as he often felt, if there had been a Nation 
to appeal to, instead of a heterogeneous mass of small peoples, 
willing enough to talk of Fatherland, but in nowise prepared to 
become a Nation. There are many other ifs in which much virtue 
could be found ; but inasmuch as he could not create circumstances, 
we must follow his example, and be content with what the gods 
provided. I do not, I confess, see what other sphere was open to 
him in which his genius could have been more sacred ; but I do see 
that he built out of circumstances a noble Temple in which the altar- 
flame burnt with a steady light. To hypothetical biographers be 
left the task of settling what Goethe viight have been; enough for 
us to catch some glimpse of what he was. 

''Poetry,^^ says Carlyle, ''is the attempt which man makes to 
render his existence harmonious.'' It is the flower into which a life 
expands ; but it is not the life itself, with all daily needs, daily 
struggles, daily prosaisms. The true poet manfully accepts the con- 
dition in which destiny has placed him, and therein tries to make his 
existence harmonious ; the sham poet, like a weak workman, fretful 
over his tools, is loud in his assurances of what he might be, were it 
his lot to Hve in other circumstances. Goethe was led by the current 
of events to a little court, where he was arrested by friendship, love, 
leisure, and opportunities of a freer, nobler life than Frankfurt Law 
Courts offered him. After much deliberation he chose his career : 
these pages will show how in it he contrived to be true to his 

It is scarcely worth while to notice trash about his servility 
and court slavery. He was not required to be servile; and his 
nature was as proud as any prince's. '' They call me a prince's ser- 
vant," he said to Eckermann, " and a prince's slave ; as if there 
were any meaning in such words ! Whom do I serve ? A tyrant — 
a despot ? Do I serve one who Uves for his own pleasures at the 
people's cost ? Such princes and such times are, thank God 1 far 
enough from us. For more than half a century I have been con- 
nected in the closest relations with the Grand Duke, and for half a 


century have striven and toiled with him ; but I should not be speak- 
ing truth were. I to say that I could name a single day on which the 
Duke had not his thoughts busied with something to be devised and 
effected for the good of the country ; something calculated to better 
the condition of each individual in it. As for himself, personally, 
what has his princely state given him but a burden and a task ? Is 
his dwelling, or his dress, or his table more sumptuously provided 
than that of any private man in easy circumstances ?. Go into our 
maritime cities, and you will find the larder and cellar of every con- 
siderable merchant better filled than his. If, then, I am a prince's 
slave, it is at least my consolation that I am but the slave of one who 
is himself a slave of the general good.'' 

And to close this subject, read the following passage from Merck's 
letter to Nicolai — (the Merck who is said by Falk to have spoken so 
bitterly of the waste of Goethe's life at Weimar) : '' I have lately 
paid Goethe a visit at the Wartburg, and we have Uved together for 
ten days like children. I am delighted to have seen with my own 
eyes what his situation is. The Duke is the best of all, and has a 
character firm as iron : I would do, for love of him, just what Ooethe 
does .... I tell you sincerely that the Duke is most worthy of re- 
spect, and one of the cleverest men that I have ever seen, — and con- 
sider that he is a prince, and only twenty years of age !" The long 
and friendly correspondence Merck kept up with the Duke is the 
best pledge that the foregoing estimate was sincere. 




From out the many flirtations that amused him, there rises one 
which grew into predominant importance, swallowing up all the 
others, and leaping from lambent flame into eager and passionate 
fire. It was no transitory flash, but a fire which burnt for ten 
years ; and thereby is distinguished from all previous attachments. 
It is a silver thread woven among the many-coloured threads which 
formed the tapestry of his Hfe. I will here detach it, to consider it 
by itself. 

The Baroness von Stein, " Hofdame'^ and wife of the Master of 
the Horse, was, both by family and position, a considerable person. 
To us she is interesting, as having sprung from a Scotch family, 
named Irving, and as being the sister-in-law to that Baron Imhoff 
who sold his first wife to Warren Hastings. She was the mother of 
seven children, and had reached that age which, in fascinating 
women, is of perilous fasciaation — the age of three-and-thirty. We 
can understand something of her power if we look at her portrait, 
and imagine those delicate, coquettish features animated with the 
lures of sensibility, gaiety, and experience of the world. She sang 
well, played well, sketched well, talked well, appreciated poetry, and 
handled sentiment with the delicate tact of a woman of the world. 
Her pretty fingers had turned over many a serious book ; and she 
knew how to gather honey from weeds. With moral deficiencies, 
which this history will betray, she was to all acquaintances a per- 
fectly charming woman ; and retained her charm even in old age, as 
many living witnesses testify. Some years after her first acquaint- 
ance with Goethe, Schiller thus writes of her to his friend Komer : 
" She is really a genuine, interesting person, and I quite understand 
what has attached Goethe to her. Beautiful she can never have 
been ; but her countenance has a soft earnestness, and a quite pecu- 
liar openness. A healthy understanding, truth, and feeling, lie ih 
her nature. She has more than a thousand letters from Goethe ; 

1776.] THE FRAU VON STEIN. 223 

and from Italy he writes to her eveiy week. They say the con- 
nexion is perfectly pure and blameless/' 

It was at Pyrmont that Goethe first saw the Prau von Stein's 
portrait, and was three nights sleepless in consequence of Zimmer- 
mann's description of her. In sending her that flattering detail, 
Zimmermann added, "he will assuredly come to Weimar to see 
you/' Under her portrait Goethe wrote, ^' What a glorious poem it 
would be to see how the world mirrors itself in this soul ! She sees 
the world as it is, and yet withal sees it through the medium of love ; 
hence sweetness is the dominant expression." In her reply to 
Zimmermann she begs to hear more about Goethe, and intimates 
her desire to see him. This calls forth a reply that she " has no 
idea of the danger of his magical presence." Such dangers pretty 
women gladly run into, especially when, like Charlotte von Stein, 
they are perfect mistresses of themselves. 

With his heart still trembling from the agitations of victory over 
its desires, after he had torn himself away from Lili, he saw this 
chaiming woman. The earth continues warm long after the sun has 
glided below the horizon ; and the heart continues warm some time 
after the departure of its sun. Goethe was therefore prepared to 
fall desperately in love with one who " viewed all things through the 
medium of love". And there is considerable interest in noting the 
hind of idol now selected. Hitherto he has been captivated only by 
very young girls, whose youth, beauty, and girlishness, were the 
chimns to his wandering fancy ; but now he is fascinated by a woman, 
a woman of rank and elegance, a woman of culture and experience, 
a woman who, instead of abandoning herself to the charm of his 
affection, knew how, without descending from her pedestal, to keep" 
the flame alive. The others loved him, — ^showed him their love,— 
and were forgotten. She contrived to keep him in the pleasant fever 
of hope ; made herself necessary to him ; made her love an aim, and 
kept him in the excitement of one 

" Who neyer is, but always to be blest." 

Considering the state of society and opinion at that period, and 
considering moreover that, according to her son's narrative, her 
husband was scarcely seen in his own home more than once a week, 
and that no pretence of affection existed between them, we could 
understand how Goethe's notorious passion for her excited sympathy 
in Weimar. Not a word of blame escaped any one on this subject. 
They saw a lover whose mistress gave him just enough encourage- 
ment to keep him eager in pursuit, and who knew how to check him 



when that eagerness would press on too far. In his early letters to 
her there are sudden outbreaks and reserves ; sometimes the affec- 
tionate thou escapes, and the next day, perhaps even in the next 
sentence, the prescribed you returns. The letters follow almost 
daily. So early as January 1776 this significant phrase escapes: 
" Adieu, angel ! I shall never become more prudent ; and have to 
thank God for it. Adieu I and yet it grieves me that I love thee so 
— ^and precisely thee I ^^ 

Here is an answer, apparently, to something she has written (for 
unhappily we have none of her letters : she had taken the precaution 
to demand her letters back from him, and burnt them, carefully pre- 
serving his) : 

'' Wherefore must I plague thee ! dearest creature ! Wherefore 
deceive myself and plague thee ! We can be nothing to each other, 
and yet are too much to each other. Believe me thou art in all 
things one with me — ^but because I see things as they are it makes 
me mad ! Good night, angel, and good morning. I will see thee 
no more .... Only .... Thou knowest all ... . My heart is ... . 
All I can say is mere folly. In future I shall see thee as men see 
the stars." A few days after, he writes, " Adieu, dear sister, since 
it must be so." 

I select the following as indicating the tone : " Xst May, To-day 
I shall not see you. Your presence yesterday made so wonderful an 
impression on me, that I know not as yet whether I am weU or ill 
from it. Adieu, dearest lady." " 1^^ May. Evening, Thou art 
right to make me a saint, that is to say, to remove me from thy 
heart. Holy as thou art I cannot make thee a saint. To-morrow, 
therefore .... Well, I will not see thee. Good night ! " On the 
24th of May, a passionate letter reveals that she had written or 
spoken to him in a decided tone about " appearances" and '' the 
world" : " So the purest, most beautiful, truest relation I ever had 
to a woman, except to my sister, thai also must be disturbed ! I 
was prepared for it ; but I suffered infinitely on account of the past 
and the future, and of the poor child thus consecrated in sorrow. I 
will not see you ; your presence would make me sad. If I am not to 
live with you, your love will help me no more than the love of those 
absent, in which I am so rich. Presence, in the moment of need, 
discerns, alleviates, and strengthens. The absent comes with the 

hose when the fire is extinguished and all for the sake of the 

world ! The world, which can be nothing to me, will not let thee 
be anything to me. You know not what you do ... . The hand of 
one in solitude who hears not the voice of love, presses hard where 


1776.] THE FRAU VON STEIN, 226 

it rests. Adieu, best of women V " 2hth May. You are always 
the same, always infinite love and goodness. Forgive me if I make 
you suffer. I will learn to bear my suffering alone.'^ " 2nd June, 
Adieu. Love me as ever, I will come seldomer and write seldomer.^' 
'^ 4ith June. Here, dear lady, is the tribute. I will see if I can keep 
my resolution not to come. You are not quite safe with me. Yes- 
terday there were again some moments in which I truly felt how I 
love you.'^ " 6th June. So you could do me the unkindness of re- 
maining away yesterday. Truly what you do must be right in my 
eyes ! ! But it made me sad.'' '^ 7th June. You are a darling to 
have told me aU ! When one loves one should teU everything. 
Dearest angel, and I have again three words which will set you at 
rest, but only words from me to thee ! I shall come to-day.'' 

She was forced to quit Weimar for a while. " Dearest lady," he 
writes, " I dare not think you are going away on Tuesday, and that 
you will be away from me six months. For what avails all else ? It 
is presence alone which influences, consoles, and edifies ! even though 
it sometimes torments — ^tormeiit is the sunshower of love." 

Here is a curious passage : " Last night as I lay in bed half asleep. 
Philip brought me a letter ; half stupified, I read — that Lili is be- 
trothed ! ! I turn roimd and fall asleep. How I pray that fate may 
act so by me in the right moment. Dear angel, good night." One 
more extract. " Oh ! you have a way of giving pain which is like 
that of destiny, which admits of no complaint, however it may 

In a Httle while the tone grows more subdued. Just as the tone 
of his behaviour in Weimar, after the first wild weeks, became soft- 
ened to a lower key, so in these letters we see, after a while, fewer 
passionate outbreaks, fewer interjections, and no more thou's. But 
love warms them still. The letters are incessant, and show an in- 
cessant preoccupation. Certain sentimental readers will be shocked, 
perhaps, to find so many details about eating and drinking; but 
when they remember Charlotte cutting bread and butter, they may 
understand the author of Werther eloquently begging his beloved to 
send him a sausage. 

The visitor may still read the inscription, at once homage and 
souvenir, by which Goethe connected the happy hours of love with 
the happy hours of active solitude passed in his Garden House in the 
Park. Fitly is the place dedicated to the Frau von Stein. The 
whole spot speaks of her. Here are the flower-beds from which 
almost every morning flowers, with the dew still on them, accom- 
panied litters, not less fresh and beautiful, to greet the beloved. 


Here are the beds from which came the asparagus he was so proud 
to send her. Here is the orchard in which grew the fruit he so 
often sent. Here is the room in which he dreamt of her ; here the 
room in which he worked, while her image hovered round him. The 
house stands within twenty nunutes' walk from the house where she 
Uved, separated by clusters of noble trees. 

K the reader turns back to the description of the Park, he will 
ascertain the position of this Oartenhaus, Originally it belonged to 
Bertuch. One day, when the Duke was earnestly pressing Goethe 
to take up his residence at Weimar, the poet (who then lived in the 
Jagerhaus in the Belvidere All^e), undecided as to whether he should 
go or remain, let fall, among other excuses, the want of a quiet bit 
of land, where his taste for gardening could be indulged. '' Bertuch, 
for example, is very comfortable ; if I had but such a piece of ground 
as that I" Hereupon the Duke, very characteristically, goes to Ber- 
tuch, and without periphrasis, says, " I must have your garden.^' 
Bertuch starts : ^^ But, your highness — *' '^ But me no buts,'' re- 
pHes the young prince ; '' I can^t help you. Goethe wants it, and 
unless we give it to him we shall never keep him here ; it is the 
only way to secure him.'^ This reason would probably not have 
been so cogent with Bertuch, had not the Duke excused the despot- 
ism of his act by giving in exchange more than the value of the • 
garden. It was at first only lent to Goethe; but in 1780 it was 
made a formal gift. 

It is charmingly situated, and, although of modest pretensions, is 
one of the most enviable houses in Weimar. The Hm runs through 
the meadows which front it. The town, although so near, is com- 
pletely shut out from view by the thick-growing trees. The solitude 
is absolute, broken only by the occasional sound of the church clock, 
the music from the barracks, and the screaming of the peacocks 
spreading their superb beauty in the park. So fond was Goethe of 
this house, that winter and summer he Uved there for seven years ; * 
and when, in 1 782, the Duke made him a present of the house in 
the Frauenplan, he could not prevail upon himself to sell the Gar- 
tenhaus, but continued to make it a favourite retreat. Often when 
he chose to be alone and undisturbed, he locked all the gates of the 
bridges which led from the town to his house, so that, as Wieland 
complained, no one could get at him except by aid of picklock and 

It was here, in this httle garden, he studied the development of 
plants, and made many of those experiments and observations which 
have given him a high rank among the discoverers in Sconce. It 

1776.] THE FRAU VON STEIN. 227 

was here the poet escaped from court. It was here the lover was 
happy in his love. How modest this Grarden-house really is ; how 
far removed from anything like one's preconceptions of it 1 It is 
tme^ that the position is one which many a rich townsman in Eng- 
land would be glad of^ as the site for a handsome villa : a pretty 
orchard and garden on a gentle slope ; in fronts a good carriage 
road^ running beside a fine meadow, encircled by the stately trees 
of the park. But the house, a half-pay captain with us would con- 
sider a miserable cottage ; yet it sufficed for the court favourite and 
minister. Here the Duke was constantly with him ; sitting up, till 
deep in the night, in earnest discussion ; often sleeping on the sofa 
instead of going home. Here both Duke and Duchess would come 
and dine with him, in the most simple, unpretending way; the 
whole banquet in one instance consisting, as we learn &om a casual 
phrase in the Stein correspondence, of '^ a beer soup and a little 
cold meaf .* 

There is something very pleasant in noticing these traits of the 
simplicity which was then practised. The Duke's own hut — ^the 
Borkenhavs — ^has already been described (page 194). The hut, for 
it was nothing else, in which Goethe hved in the Ilmenau mountains, 
and the more than bourgeois simpliciiy of the Garden House, make 
us aware of one thing among otiiers, namely, that if he sacrificed 
his genius to a court, it assuredly was not for loaves and fishes, not for 
luxury and material splendour of any kind. Indeed, such things had 
no temptation to a man of his simple tastes. '' Bich in money,'' 
he writes to his beloved, "I shall never become ; but, therefore, all 
the richer in Confidence, Good Name, and Influence over the minds 
of men." 

It was his love of Nature which made him so indifferent to luxury. 
That love gave him simplicity and hardihood. In many things he 
■ was unlike his nation : notably in his voluntary exposure to two 
bright, wholesome things, which to his contemporaries were little 
less than bugbears — I mean, fresh air and cold water. The nation 
which consented to live in the atmosphere of iron stoves, tobacco, 
and bad breath, and which deemed a pint of water all that man could 
desire for Ids ablutions, must have been greatly perplexed at seeing 
Goethe indulge in fresh air and cold water as enjoyingly as if they 
were vices. 

Two anecdotes will bring this contrast into relief. So great was 
the German reluctance to even a necessary exposure to the inclemen- 
cies of open air exercise, that historians inform us '^ a great propor- 
• CoWare ako the Briefweehael twischen Karl Augiut und Ooethe, i, 27. 



tion, especially among the learned classes^ employed a miserable sub- 
stitute for exercise in the shape of a machine, by means of which 
they comfortably took their dose of movement without leaving their 
rooms/'* And Jacobs, in his Personalien, records a fact which, while 
explaining how the abovenamed absurdity could have gained ground, 
paints a sad picture of the Hfe of German youth in those days. 
Describing his boyish days at Gotha, he says: " Our winter pleasures 
were confined to a not very spacious courtyard, exchanged in sum- 
mer for a little garden within the walls, which my father hired. We 
took no walks. Only on^ne a year, when the harvest was ripe, our 
parents took us out to spend aU evening in the fields "-^ So little had 
Goethe of this prejudice against fresh air. that when he began the 
rebuilding of his Gartenhaus, instead of sleeping at an hotel or at 
the house of a friend, he lived there through all the building period ; 
and we find liim writing, ^' At last I have a window once more, and 
can make a fire.'' On the 8rd of May he writes, " Good morning : 
here is asparagus. How were you yesterday ? Philip baked me a 
cake ; and thereupon, wrapped up in my blue cloak, I laid myself on 
a dry comer of the terrace and slept amid thunder, Ughtning, and 
rain, so gloriously that my bed was afterwards quite disagreeable." 
On the 19th he writes, " Thanks for the breakfast. I send you some- 
thing in return. Last night I slept on the terrace, wrapped in my 
blue cloak, awoke three times, at 12, 2, and 4, and each Ume there 
was a new splendowr in the heavens," There are other traces of this 
tendency to bivouac, but these will suffice. He bathed , not only in 
the morning sunlight, but also in the Urn, when the moonlight shim- 
mered on it. Always in the free air seeking vigour — 
** Taache mich in die Sonne frOh 
Bad' ab im Monde dee Tages Muh'." 

The Diike shared this love of bathing, which December's cold could 
not arrest. It was here Goethe learned to swim by the aid of 
" corks" (which so often served him as an illustration), and no in- 
clemency of the weather could keep him out of the water. The fas- 
cination of water luring into its treacherous depths, is wonderfully 
expressed by him in that ballad, which every one knows, and almost 
every one tries to translate. I have tried my hand in this version : 

The water rushed, the water swelled : 

A fisherman sat by. 
And gazed upon his dancing float 
With tranquil-dreaming eye. 

* BiEDEBMAKN : Deuttchl(md*8 PoUHsche Materielle und SociaXe Zuitaude, i, p. 843. 
t Quoted by Mrs. Austin : Qerma/n/y from 1760 to 1814, p. 85. •^' 

1776.] THE FRAU VON STEIN, 229 

And as he aits, and as he looks. 

The gargling waves arise : 
A maid, all bright with water-drops. 

Stands straight before his eyes. 

She sang to him, she spake to him : 

"My fish why dost thou snare 
With hmnan wit and human guile 

Into the killing air P 
Couldst see how happy fishes Uve 

Under the stream so clear. 
Thyself would plunge into the stream. 

And Uve for ever there. 

" Bathe not the lovely sun and moon 

Within the cool deep sea. 
And with wave-breathing fii^es rise 

In two-fold witchery ? 
Lure not the misty heaven-deeps 

So beautiM and blue? 
Lures not thine image, mirrored in 

The fresh eternal dew ?* 

The water nuihfid, the water swelled. 

It clai^>ed his feet, I wis ; 
A thrill went through his yearning heart 

As when two lovers kiss ! 
She spake to him, she sang to him : 

Besistless was her strain ; 
Half drew him in, half lured him in ; 

He ne'er was seen again. 

One night, while the moon was calmly shining on our poetical 
bather, a peasant, returning home, was in the act of climbing over 
the bars of the floating bridge ; Goethe espied him, and moved by 
that spirit of devilry which so often startled Weimar, he gave utter- 
ance to wild sepulchral tones, raised himself half out of water, 
ducked under, and reappeared howling, to the horror of the aghast 
peasant, who, hearing such sounds issue from a figure with long float- 
ing hair, fled as if a legion of devils were at hand. To this day 
there remains an ineradicable belief in the existence of the water- 
sprite who howls among the waters of the Tim, 




''Let my present life/' writes Goethe to Lavater, January 1777, 
" continue as long as it will, at any rate I have heartily enjoyed a 
genuine experience of the variegated throng and press of the world 
— Sorrow, Hope, Love, Work, Wants, Adventure, Ennui, Impati- 
ence, Folly, Joy, the Expected and the Unknown, the Superficial 
and the Profound — just as the dice threw — ^with fStes, dances, sledg- 
ings — adorned in silk and spangles — ^a marvellous m&nage! And 
withal, dear brother, God be praised, in myself and in my real aims 
in life I am quite happy/' 

" Goethe plays indeed a high game at Weimar," writes Merck, 
" but lives at Court after his own fashion. The Duke is an excellent 
man, let them say what they will, and in Gx)ethe's company will 
become still more so. What you hear is Court scandal and lies. It 
is true the intimacy between master and servant is very great, but 
what harm is there in that ? Were Ooethe a nobleman it would be 
thought quite right. He is the soul and direction of eveiything, and 
all are contented with him, because he serves many and injures no 
one. Who can withstand the disinterestedness of this man V 

He had begun to make his presence felt in the serious department 
of affairs ; not only in educating the Duke who had chosen him as 
his friend, but also in practical ameliorations. He had induced the 
Duke to call Herder to Weimar, as Eof Prediger (court chaplain) 
and General-superintendent; whereat Weimar grumbled, and gos- 
siped, setting afloat stories of Herder having mounted the pulpit in 
boots and spurs. Not content with these efforts in a higher circle, 
Goethe sought to improve the condition of the people ; and among 
his plans we note one for the opening of the Ilmenau mines, which 
for many years had been left untouched. 

Amusement went hand in hand with business. Among the varied 
amusements, one, which greatly occupied his time and fancy, de- 
serves a more special notice, because it will give us a glimpse of the 
court, and will also show us how the poet turned sport into profit. 


I alludo to the private theatricals which were started shortly after his 
arrival. It should be premised that the theatre was still in ashes 
from the fire of 1774.* Seyler had carried his troupe of players 
elsewhere ; and Weimar was without its stage. Just at this period 
private theatricals were even more "the rage'^ than they are in 
England at present. In Berlin, Dresden, Frankfurt, Augsburg, Nu- 
remberg, and Fulda, were celebrated amateur troupes. In Wiirtz- 
burg, for a long while, a nolle company put on sock and buskin ; in 
Eisenach, Prince and court joined in the sport. Even the Univer- 
sities, which in earlier times had, from religious scruples, denounced 
the drama, now forgot their antagonism, and in Vienna, Halle, Got- 
tingen, and Jena, allowed the students to have private stages. 

The Weimar theatre surpassed them all. It had its poets, its 
composers, its scene painters, its costumiers. Whoever showed any 
talent for recitation, singing, or dancing, was pressed into service, 
and had. to work as hard as if his bread depended on it. The almost 
daily rehearsals of drama, opera, or ballet, occupied and delighted 
men and women glad to have something to do. The troupe was 
distinguished : the Duchess Amalia, Karl August, Prince Constan- 
tino, Bode, Knebel, Einsiedel, Musa^us, Seckendorf, Bertuch, and 
Goethe ; with Corona Schroter, Kotzebue's sister Amalia, and Frau- 
lein Gochhausen. These formed a curious strolling company, wan- 
dering from Weimar to all the palaces in the neighbourhood — 
Ettersburg, Tiefurt, Belvedere, even to Jena, Domburg, and H- 
menau. Often did Bertuch, as Falk tells us, receive orders to have 
the sumpter waggon, or travelling kitchen, ready for the early 
dawn, when the court would start with its wandering troupe. If 
only a short expedition was intended, three sumpter asses were 
sufficient. If it was more distant, over hill and dale, far into the 
distant country, then indeed the night before was a busy one, and 
all the ducal pots and pans were in requisition. Such boiling and 
stewing, and roasting I such slaughter of capons, pigeons, and fowls I 
The ponds of the Hm were dragged for fish ; the woods were robbed 
of their partridges ; the cellars were lightened of their wines. With 
early dawn rode forth the merry party, full of anticipation, wild witn 
animal spirits. On they went through solitudes, the grand old trees 
of which were wont only to see the soaring hawk poised above their 
tops, or the wild-eyed deer bounding past the hut of the charcoal 
burner. On they went : youth, beauty, gladness, and hope^^a goodly 
train, like that which animated the forest of Ardennes, when '' under 

* On the state of the theatre before Qoethe's arrival and subsequently, see 
Pa8Qu£ : Ooethe^B Theaterleitung in Weimar, 1863. 



tlie shade of melancholy boughs'* the pensive Dnke and his followers 
forgot awhile their cares and " painted pomps''. 

Their stage was soon arranged. At Ettersbnrg the traces are still 
visible of this forest stage^ where, when weather permitted, the per- 
formances took place. A wing of the chateau was also made into a 
theatre. But the open-air performances were most relished. To 
rehearsals and performances in Ettersburg the actors, sometimes as 
many as twenty, were brought in the Duke's equipages ; and in the 
evening, after a joyous supper often enlivened with songs, they 
were conducted home by the Duke's body-guard of Hussars bearing 
torches. It was here they performed Einsiedel's opera. The Oypsies, 
with wonderful illusion. Several scenes of (}dtz von Berlichingen 
were woven into it. The illuminated trees, the crowd of gypsies in 
the wood, the dances and songs under the blue starht heavens, while 
the sylvan bugle sounded from afar, made up a picture, the magic 
of which was never forgotten. On the Ilm also, at Tiefurt, just 
where the river makes a beautiftd bend round the shore, a regular 
theatre was constructed. Trees, and other poetical objects, such as 
fishermen, nixies, water-spirits, moon, and stars, — ^all were intro- 
duced with effect. 

The performances were of the same varied nature as the theatres. 
Sometimes French comedies, sometimes serious works of art, often 
broad extravaganzas. Occasionally they played charades, in which 
the plan was pre-arranged, but the dialogue left to the improvisation 
of the actors. Once when an actor grew wordy and wandering, 
they rushed on the stage, carried him off by force, and informed the 
audience (as if it were part of the piece) that he was suddenly taken 
ill. The records of that time have preserved* for us the outline of a 
magical piece, got up in honour of Goethe's birthday — Minerva's 
Birth, Life, and Deeds. It was a magnificent magic-lantern piece, 
with music by Seckendorf. The characters were not represented by 
puppets, but by gentlemen and ladies, in the so-called Petit Oolis^e 
at Tiefurt. On the site of this new temple of the Muses stood for- 
merly a solitary wood hut. In the representation every appliance 
was sought after which external effect demanded. It took place 
behind a large white curtain, en silhoutts. In the Histoire universelle 
des TMdtres there is only one example of a theatrical representation 
of this kind, namely, the drama which Chiron presented to his pupil, 
Achilles, and which had the same object and significance as the 
Tiefurt drama. In antiquity such representations were called umhrce 
palpitantes, by modems, ombres chinoises. They were introduced at 
the Weimar court about this time, by the Duke George of Saxe- 
Meiningen, and were very much in favour there. 


The subject of this Tiefiirt piece is remarkable : Jupiter (in the 
person of the painter Kraus, on whose shoulders was placed a colossal 
paste-board head), in order to frustrate the prophecy that on the 
accotcchement of his wife Metis, he would be thrust from the throne, 
has devoured Metis. Thereupon he sniffers terrible pains in the 
head ; Gknymede, hovering behind him on a great eagle, offers him 
the cup of nectar : the pains of the Thunderer increase visibly, and 
Ganymede soars into the air to fetch -^sculapius and Vulcan, ^scu- 
lapius seeks in vain to cure his master. A Cyclops, who is sum- 
moned, bleeds him at the nose, without effect. Then comes the 
powerftd Vulcan (represented by the young Duke Karl August), 
who, holding in one hand his hammer, in the other a great iron bar, 
and encircled by an apron, approaches his suffering father, and with 
one good stroke of the hammer splits his divine skull, out of which 
proceeds Minerva, the goddess of wisdom (represented by Corona 
Schroter), at first quite a small figure, but by means of appropriate 
machinery becoming larger and larger every moment, till at last the 
whole of her tall, sUm form is revealed, enveloped in light gauze. 
She is received by Father Zeus in the most friendly manner ; and 
rich gifts are presented to her by all the gods. She is furnished 
with a helmet, an aegis, and a lance ; Ganymede places Jupiter's owl 
at her feet, and amidst music and choral singing the cuiiain falls. 

In the third and last act, the poet departed from the materials 
of the myth. He made the new-bom goddess read in the Book of 
Fate, and find there the 28th of Attgust* marked as one of the most 
fortunate days. She says that " on that day three-and-thirty years 
ago a man was given to the world, who will be honoured as one of 
the best and wisest.'' Then appears a winged genius in the clouds, 
bearing Goethe's name. Minerva crowns this name, and at the same 
time dedicates to it the divine gifts which have been immemorially 
the tokens of her favour ; for example, the golden lyre of Apollo, 
and the flowery wreath of the Muses. The whip of Momus alone, 
on the thong of which stood the word '' Aves," is laid aside and re- 
jected by the goddess ; while the names Iphigenia and Faust appear 
in the clouds in fire transparencies. At the close, Momus advances 
unabashed, and brings the reprobated symbol of his Art as a present 
to Goethe. 

Such was the opening and dedication of the new Weimar-Tiefurt 
Court Theatre. It is obvious that the piece was intended purely to 
celebrate the birthday of Goethe, the director of this social theatre ; 
and gives us not a bad idea of the ingenuity and pains bestowed 

* Ooethe's birthday. 


upon these amusements. The reader will not fail to notice that if 
Goethe prepared fetes for the birthday of his duchess^ Weimar also 
prepared fStes for the birthday of its poet. 

Another favourite magic-lantern piece was King Midas, which is 
mentioned in AmaUa's letters to Knebel in the year 1781. But the 
best known of the Tiefurt dramas is Goethe^s Operetta I>iei^wcAmn, 
performed in the summer of 1782. The charming text^ beginning 
with the famous Erl-Konig, is preserved in Goethe's works. The 
piece was represented in the Tiefurt park^ partly on the bank of the 
Ilm near the bridge^ partly on the Ilm itself^ which was illuminated 
with numerous torches and lamps. Under lofty alders against the 
river were placed scattered huts of fishermen ; nets, boats, and fish- 
ing implements stood around. On Dorten's (Corona Schruter) 
hearth fire was burning. At the moment in which the fishermen, 
who had been called together, lighted their strips of wood and 
torches, and spread themselves with their brilliant lights in boats 
and on the banks of the river, to search for the lost maiden, the 
light flashed suddenly up from the necks of land ;which stretched 
forward into the Hm, illuminating the nearest objects, and shewing 
their reflection in the water, while the more distant groups of trees 
and hills lay in deep night. The spectators had assembled in great 
numbers, and as they crowded on the wooden bridge, the better to 
catch the magical effect of the illumination on the water, their weight 
crushed the bridge in, and the eager gazers fell into the river. 
No one, however, was injured. The involuntary bathers were 
heartily laughed at, and the accident was regarded as an amusing 

I find further that when a travesty qf the ' Birds' of Aristophanes 
was performed at Ettersburg, the actors were all dressed in real 
feathers, their heads completely covered, though free to move. Their 
wings flapped, their eyes rolled, and ornithology was absurdly 
parodied. It is right to add, that besides these extravagances and 
ombres chindses, there were very serious dramatic efforts : among 
them we find Goethe's second dramatic attempt. Die Mitschuldigen, 
which was thus cast : — 

Der Wvrth 



Corona Schrdter. 

Another play was the Oeschwister, written in three evenings, it is 
said, but without evidence, out of love for the sweet eyes of Amalia 
Kotzebue, sister of the dramatist, then a youth. Kotzebue thus 


touclies the point in his Memoirs : '' Goethe had at that time jnst 
written his charming piece. Die Oeschtdster. It was performed at a 
private theatre at Weimar, he himself playing William and my sister 
Marianne — ^while to me, yes to me— was allotted the important part 
of postilion 1 My readers may imagine with what exultation I trod 
the stage for the first time before the mighty public itself/' Another 
piece was Cumberland's West Indian, in which the duke played 
Major 0' Flaherty. EckhoflF (the great actor) the Father, and Goethe 
Belcour, dressed in a white coat with silver lace, blue silk vest, and 
blue silk knee breeches, in which they say he looked superb. 

While mentioning these I must not pass over the Iphigenia (then 
in prose), which was thus cast : 

Oreaies - - . - * Gk>ethe. 

Pylades .... Prince Constaiitme. 

T?Ma8 .... Knebel. 

Arkas .... Seidler. 

Xphigenia .... Corona SchrOter. 

''Never shall I forget,'' exclaims Dr. Hufeland, ''the impression 
Goethe made as Orestes, in his Grrecian costume ; one might have 
fancied him Apollo. Never before had there been seen such tmion 
of physical and intellectual beauty in one man I" His acting, as far 
as I can learn, had the ordinary defects of amateur acting ; it was 
impetuous and yet stiff, exaggerated and yet cold; and his fine 
sonorous voice displayed itself ^without nice reference to shades of 
meaning. In comic parts, on the other hand, he seems to have been 
excellent ; the broader the fun, the more at home he felt ; and one 
can imagine the rollicking animal spirits with which he animated the 
Marktschreier in the Plundersweilern ; one can picture him in the 
extravagance of the Oeflickte Braut,* giving vent to his sarcasm on 
the ' sentimental' tone of the age, ridicuHng his own Werther, and 
merciless to Waldemar.f 

I have thus brought together, irrespective of dates, the scattered 
indications of these theatrical amusements. How much enjoyment was 
produced by them 1 what social pleasure I and what endless episodes, 
to which memory recurred in after times, when they were seated round 
the dinner table ! Nor were these amusements profitless. Wilhelm 
Meister was designed and partly written about this period ; and the 
reader, who knows Goethe's tendency to make all his works bio- 
graphical, will not be surprised at the amount of theatrical expe- 

* Published, under a very mitigated form, as the JHwnph der EmpfindsamkeU 
See the next chapter for further notice of this piece. 

t Jacobi and Wieland were both seriously offended with his parodies of their 
writings ; but both soon became reconciled to him. 


rience which is mirrored in that work ; nor at the earnestness which 
is there made to lurk beneath amusement^ so that what to the 
crowd seems no more than a flattery of their tastes, is to the man 
himself a process of the highest culture. 

Boar-himting in the light of early dawn, sitting in the middle of 
the day in grave diplomacy and active council, rehearsing during the 
afternoon, and enlivening the evening with grotesque serenades or 
torchlight sledgings — thus passed many of his days ; not to mention 
flirtations, balls, masquerades, concerts, and verse-writing. The 
muse was, however, somewhat silent, though Sans Sacks' poetische 
8endung, lAla, some charming lyrics, and the dramas and operas 
written for the occasion, forbid the accusation of idleness. He was 
storing up materials. Favst, Egmoni, Tasso, Iphigenia and Meister 
were germinating. 

The muse was silent, but was the soul inactive ? As these strange 
and variegated scenes passed before his eyes, was he a mere actor, 
and not also a spectator ? Let his works answer. To some indeed 
it has seemed as if in thus lowering great faculties to the composition 
of slight operas and festive pieces, Goethe was faithless to his mis- 
sion, false to his own genius. This is but a repetition of Merck^s 
exclamation against Olavigo, and may be answered as that was 
answered. Herder thought that the Chosen One should devote him- 
self to great works. This is the objection of a man of letters who 
can conceive no other aim than the writing of books. But Goethe 
needed to live as well as to write. Life is multiplied and rendered 
infinite by Feeling and Knowledge. He sought both to feel and to 
know. The great works he has written — ^works high in conception, 
austerely grand in execution, the fruits of earnest toil and lonely 
self-seclusion — ought to shield him now from any charge of wasting 
his time on frivolities, though to Herder and Merck such a point of 
view was denied. 

It was his real artistic nature, and genuine poetic mobiUty, that 
made him scatter with a prodigal hand the trifles which distressed 
his friends. Poetry was the melodious voice breathing fi^m his 
entire manhood, not a profession, not an act of duty. It was an im- 
pulse : the sounding chords of his poetic nature vibrated to every 
touch, grave and stately, sweet and impassioned, delicate and hu- 
morous. He wrote not for Fame. He wrote not for Pence. He 
wrote poetry because he had lived it ; and sang as the bird sings on 
its bough. Open to every impression, touched to ravishment by 
beauty, he sang whatever at the moment filled him with delight — 
now trilling a careless snatch of melody, now a simple ballad, now a 


majestic hymn ascending from the depths of his soul on incense- 
bearing rhythms, and now a grave quiet chaunt, slow with its rich 
burden of meanings. Men in whom the productive activity is great, 
cannot be restrained from throwing oflf trifles, as the plant throws off 
buds beside the expanded flowers. Michael Angelo carved the 
Moses, and painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but did he not 
also lend his master-hand to the cutting of graceful cameos ? 




Hitherto our narrative of tliis Weimar period has moved mainly 
among generalities, for only by sncli means could a picture of tliis 
episode be painted. Now, as we advance further, it is necessary to 
separate the threads of his career from those of others with which it 
was interwoven. 

It has already been noted, that he began to tire of the follies and 
extravagancies of the first months. In this year, 1777, he was quiet 
in his Garden-house, occupied with drawing, poetry, botany, and 
the one constant occupation of his heart — ^love for the Prau von 
Stein. Love and ambition were the guides which led him through 
the labyrinth of the court. Amid those motley scenes, amid those 
swiftly-succeeding pleasures. Voices, sorrowing Voices of the Past, 
made themselves audible above the din, and recalled the vast hopes 
which once had given energy to his aims ; and these reverberations 
of an ambition once so cherished, arrested and rebuked him, like 
the deep murmurs of some solemn bass moving slowly through the 
showering caprices of a sportive melody. No soul can endure unin- 
terrupted gaiety and excitement. Weary intervals will occur : the 
vulgar soul fills these intervals with the long lassitude of its ennui ; 
the noble soul with reproaches at the previous waste of irrevocable 

The quiet influence exercised by the Frau von Stein is visible in 
every page of his letters. As far as I can divine the state of things 
in the absence of her letters, I fancy she coquetted with him ; when 
he showed any disposition to throw ofif her yoke, when his manner 
seemed to imply less warmth, she lured him back with tenderness ; 
and vexed him with unexpected coldness when she had drawn him 
once more to her feet. ''You reproach me," he writes, ''with 
alternations in my love. It is not true ; but it is well that I do not 
every day feel how utterly I love you." Again : " I cannot conceive 
why the main ingredients of your feeling have lately been Doubt and 
want of Belief. But it is certainly true that one who did not hold 


firm Hs affection might have that affection doubted away^ just as a 
man may be persuaded that he is pale and ill." That she tormented 
him with these coquettish doubts is but too evident ; and yet when 
he is away firom her she writes to tell him he is become dearer ! 
'' Yes, my treasure !" he replies, ^' I believe you when you say your 
love increases for me during absence. When away, you love the 
idea you have formed of me ; but when present, that idea is offcen 
disturbed by my folly and madness. ... I love you better when pre- 
sent than when absent : hence I conclude my love is truer than 
yours.'* At times he seems himself to have doubted whether he 
really loved her, or only loved the delight of her presence. 

With these doubts mingles another element, his ambition to do 
something which will make him worthy of her. In spite of his 
popularity, in spite of his genius, he has not Subdued her heart, but 
only agitated it. He endeavours, by devotion^ to succeed. Thus 
love and ambition play into each other's hands, and keep him in a 
seclusion which astonishes and pains several of those who could 
never have enough of his company. 

In the June of this year his solitude was visited by one of the 
agitations he could least withstand — the death of his only sister, 
Cornelia. Sorrows and dreams, is the significant entry of the follow- 
ing day in his journal. 

It was about this time that he undertook the care of Peter Im- 
baumgarten, a Swiss peasant boy, the prot^g^ of his friend Baron 
Lindau. The death of the Baron left Peter once more without protec- 
tion. Goethe, whose heart was open to all, especially to children, gladly 
undertook to continue the Baron's care ; and as we have seen him 
sending home an Italian image-boy to his mother at Frankfurt, and 
Wilhelm Meister undertaking the care of Mignon and Felix, so does 
this '' cold" Goethe add love to charity, and become a father to the 

The autumn tints were begioning to mingle their red and yellow 
with the dark and solemn firs of the Hmenau mountains ; Goethe 
and the Duke could not long keep away from the loved spot, where 
poetical and practical schemes occupied the day, and many a wild 
prank startled the night. There they danced with peasant girls 
till early dawn ; one result of which was a swelled face, forcing 
Goethe to lay up. 

On his return to Weimar he was distressed by the receipt of one 
of the many letters which Werther drew upon him. He had made 
sentimentality poetical ; it soon became a fashion. Many were the 
melancholy youths who poured forth their sorrows to him, demand- 


ing sympathy and consolation. Nothing could be more antipathetic 
to his clear and healthy nature. It made him ashamed of his Wertlier. 
It made him merciless to all Wertherism. To relieve himself of the 
annoyance^ he commenced the satirical extravaganza of the Triumph 
der Em/pfindsamkeit. Very significant, however, of the unalterable 
kindliness of his disposition is the fact, that although these senti- 
mentalities had to him only a painful or a ludicrous aspect, he did 
not sufiTer his repugnance to the malady to destroy his sympathy for 
the patient. There is a proof of this in the episode he narrates of 
his Harz journey, made in November and December of this year,* 
known to most readers through his poem, Bie Harzreise in Wmter. 
The object of that journey was two-fold ; to visit the Ilmenau Mines, 
and to visit an unhappy misanthrope whose Wertherism had distressed 
him. He set out with the Duke, who had arranged a hunting party to 
destroy " a great thing of a boar" then ravaging the country round 
Eisenach; but, although setting out with them, he left them, en 
route, for purposes of his own. 

Through hail, frost, and mud, lonely, yet companioned by great 
thoughts, he rode along the mountainous solitudes, and reached at 
last the BrocJcen. A bright sun shone on its eternal snows as he 
mounted, and looked down upon the cloud-covered Grermany beneath 
him. Here he felt the air of freedom swell his breast. The world 
with its conventions lay beneath him ; the court with its distractions 
was afar ; and the poet stood amidst these snowy solitudes com- 
muning with that majestic spirit of beauty which animates Nature. 

. . . "high above the misty air 
And turbulence of mnrmiiring cities vast* '^f 

he was lost in reveries of his future life : 

Dem Geier gleich 

Der anf schweren Morgenwolken, 

Mit sanftem Fittig rohend, 

Nach Bente schaut, 

Sohwebe mein Lied. 

This image of the hawk poised above the heavy morning clouds 
looking for his prey, is (I adopt his own explanation) that of the 
poet on the snowy heights looking down on the winter landscape, and 
with his mind's eye seeking amidst the perplexities of social life for 
some object worthy of his muse. 

* And not in 1776, as he says; that date is disproved by his letters to t£e Fran 
▼on Stein, 
t Wordsworth. 



Writing to his beloved, he speaks of the good ellbct this jouniey- 
iag amid simple people (to whom he is only known as HeiT Weber, 
a landscape painter) has upon his imagination. It is like a cold bath, 
he says. And d proyos of his disguise, he remarks how very ea^y it 
is to be a rogue, and what advantages it gives one over simple 
honest men to assume a character that is not your own. 

But now let us turn to the second object of his journey. The letter 
of the misanthrope just alluded to was signed Plessing, and dated 
from Wernigerode. There was something remarkable in the excess 
of its morbidity, accompanied by indications of real talent. Goethe 
did not answer it, having already hampered himself in various ways 
by responding to such extraneous demands upon his sympathy; 
another and more passionate letter came imploring an answer, which 
was still silently avoided. But now the idea of personally ascertain- 
ing what manner of man his correspondent was, made him swerve 
from his path ; and under his assumed name he called on Plessing. 

On hearing that his visitor came from Gotha, Plessing eagerly in- 
quired whether he had not visited Weimar, and whether he knew the 
celebrated men who lived there. With perfect simplicity Goethe re- 
plied that he did, and began talking of Kraus, Bertuch, Musiius, 
Jagemann, etc., when he was impatiently inten-upted with ^^ But why 
don't you mention Goethe V* He answered that Goethe also had he 
seen ; upon this he was called upon to give a description of that 
great poet, which he did in a quiet way, sufficient to have betrayed 
his incognito to more sagacious eyes. 

Plessing then with gi'eat agitation informed him that Goethe had 
not answered a most pressing and passionate letter in which ho, 
Plessing, had described the state of his mind, and had implored 
direction and assistance. Goethe excused himself as he best could ; 
but Plessing insisted on reading him the letters, that he might judge 
whether they deserved such treatment. 

He listened, and tried by temperate sympathetic counsel to wean 
Plessing from his morbid thoughts by fixing them on external objects, 
especially by some active employment. These were impatiently re- 
jected, and he left him, feeling that the case was almost beyond help. 

He was subsequently able to assist Plessing, who, on visiting him 
at Weimar, discovered his old acquaintance, the landscape painter.* 

* In 1788, Pleasing was appointed professor of philosophy in the university of 
Duisburg, where Goethe visited him on his return home from the campaign in 
Prance, 1792. The reader may be interested to know, that Plessing entirely out- 
lived his morbid melancholy, and gained a respectable name in German letters. 
His principal works are Osiria und Socrates, 1783 ; Historische und Fhilosophische 
Untersttchungen uber die Denkart Theologie und Philosophie der dltesten Volker, 1785 ; 



Bat the characteristic part of this anecdote — ^and that which makes 
me cite it here — is, the practical illustration it gives of his funda- 
mental realism, which looked to nature and earnest activity as the 
sole cure for megrims, sentimentalisms, and self-torturings. Turn 
your mind to realities, and the self-made phantoms which darken 
your soul wiU disappear like night at the approach of dawn. 

In the January of the following year (1778) Goethe was twice 
brought face to face with Death. The first was during a boar-hunt : 
his spear snapped in the onslaught, and he was in imminent peril, 
but fortunately escaped. On the following day, while he and the 
Duke were skating (perhaps talking over yesterday^s escape), there 
came a crowd over the ice, bearing the corpse of the unhappy Frau- 
lein von Lassberg, who, in the despair of unrequited love, had 
drowned herself in the Ilm, close by the very spot where Goethe 
was wont to take his evening walk. At all times this would have 
been a shock to him, but the shock was greatly intensified by the 
fact that in the pocket of the unfortunate girl was found a copy of 
Werther ! * It is true we never reproach an author in such cases. 
No reflecting man ever reproached Plato with the suicide of Cleom- 
brotus, or Schiller with the brigandage of highwaymen. Yet when 
fatal coincidences occur, the author, whom we absolve, cannot so 
lightly absolve himself. It is in vain to argue that the work does 
not, rightly considered, lead to suicide ; if it does so, wrongly con- 
sidered, it is the proxhnate cause ; and the author cannot easily 
shake off that weight of blame. Goethe, standing upon logic, might 
have said : '^ If Plato instigated the suicide of Cleombrotus, certainly 
he averted that of Olympiodorus ; if I have been one of the many 
causes which moved this girl towards that fatal act, I have also cer- 
tainly been the cause of saving others, notably that young French- 
man who wrote to thank me.*' He might have argued thus; but 
Conscience is tenderer than Logic ; and if in firing at a wild beast I 
kill a brother hunter, my conscience will not leave me altogether in 

The body was borne to the hopse of the Frau von Stein, which 
stood nearest the spot, and there he remained with it the whole day, 
exerting himself to console the wretched parents. He himself had 
need of some consolation. The incident affected him deeply, and 
him to led speculate on all cognate subjects, especially on melan- 

ond Memnonium, oder Verauche sur EnthuUung der OeheimnisBe dea AlUrthum$, 1787. 
He died 1806. 

* Biemer, who will never admit anvtliing that may seem to tell against tiis idol, 
endeavours to throw a doubt on this hct, saying it was reported only out of malico. 
But he gives no reasons. 


choly. " This inviting sadness/' he beautifully says, " has a dan- 
gerous fascination, like water itself, and we are charmed by the reflex 
of the stars of heaven which shines through hoth.^* 

He was soon, however, ^^ forced into theatrical levity^' by the 
various rehearsals necessary for the piece to be performed on the 
birthday of the Duchess. This was the Triumph der Empfindsamkeit 
The adventure with Plessing, and finally the tragedy of the Fraulein 
von Lassberg had given increased force to his antagonism against 
Wertherism and Sentimentality, which he now lashed with unsparing 
ridicule. The hero of his extravaganza is a Prince, whose soul is 
only fit for moonlight ecstacies and sentimental rhapsodies. He 
adores Nature ; not the rude, rough, imperfect Nature whose 
gigantic energy would alarm the sentimental mind ; but the beau- 
tiful rose-pink Nature of books. He likes Nature as one sees it at 
the Opera. Rocks are picturesque it is true; but they are often 
crowned with tiaras of snow, sparkling, but apt to make one 
'' chilly*' ; turbulent winds howl through their clefts and crannies, 
alarming to delicate nerves. The Prince is not fond of the winds. 
Sunrise and early mom are lovely — but damp ; and the Prince is 
liable to rheumatism. 

To obviate all such inconveniences he has had a mechanical imita- 
tion of Nature executed for his use ; and this accompanies him on 
his travels ; so that at a moment's notice, in secure defiance of rheu- 
matism, he can enjoy a moonlight scene, a sunny landscape, or a 
sombre grove. 

He is in love ; but his mistress is as factitious as his landscapes. 
Woman is charming but capricious, fond but exacting ; and there- 
fore the Prince has a doll dressed in the same style as the woman he 
once loved. By the side of this doll he passes hours of rapture ; for 
it he sighs ; for it he rhapsodises. 

The real woman appears — ^the original of that much treasured 
image. Is he enraptured ? Not in the least. His heart does not 
palpitate in her presence; he does not recognise her; but throws 
himself once more into the arms of his doll, and thus sensibility 

There are five acts of this '' exquisite fooling". Originally it was 
much coarser, and more personal than we now see it. Bottiger says 
that there remains scarcely a shadow of its flashing humour and 
satiric caprice. The whip of Aristophanes was applied with power- 
ful wrist to every fashionable folly, in dress, literature, or morals, 
and the spectators saw themselves as in a mirror of sarcasm. At 
the conclusion, the doll was ripped, open, and out fell a multitude of 



books, such as were then the rage, upon which severe and ludicrous 
judgments were passed — and the severest upon Werther. The whole 
piece was interspersed with ballets, music, and comical changes of 
sceae ; so that what now appears a tiresome farce, was then an irre- 
feistible extravaganza. 

This extravaganza has the foolery of Aristophanes, and the phy- 
sical fun of that riotous wit, whom Goethe was then studying. 
But when critics are in ecstacies with its wit and irony, I confess 
myself at a loss to conceive clearly what they mean. National 
wit, however, is perhaps scarcely amenable to criticism. What 
the German thinks exquisitely ludicrous, is to a Frenchman, or 
an Englishman, generally of mediocre mirthfulness. Wit requires 
delicate handling; the Germans generally touch it with gloved 
hands. Sarcasm is with them too often a sabre not a rapier, hack- 
ing the victim where a thrust would suffice. It is a noticeable fact 
that amid all the riches of their Literature they have little that is 
comic of a high order. They have produced no Comedy. To them 
may be apphed the couplet wherein the great original of Grotesque 
Seriousness set forth its verdict : 

UqKKAv yhjt 9^ vtipaadrrttp avr^r oKlyots x^^^^^^* 

which I will venture to turn thus : 

Miss Comedy is a sad flirt, — ^you mdy guess 

From the number who court her, the few she doth bless. 

• Abibtophanes, Equites, v, 516. 




A STRANGE phantasmagoria is the life he leads at this epoch. His-eni^ 
plojinents are manifold, yet his studies, his drawing, etching, and 
rehearsing are carried on as if they alone were the occupation of the 
day. His immense activity, and power of varied employment, scatter 
the energies which might be consecrated to some great work ; but, 
in return, they give him the varied store of material of which he 
stood so much in need. At this time he is writing Wilhelm Meister, 
and Egmont ; Iphigenia is also taking shape in his mind. His office 
gives him much to do ; and Gervinus, who must have known how 
great were the calls upon his time, should have paused ere he threw 
out the insinuation of " diplomatic rudeness ^^ when Goethe answered 
one of his brother-in-law's letters through his secretary. Surely 
with a brother-in-law one may take such latitude ?* 

This man, whose diplomatic coldness and aristocratic haughtiness 
have formed the theme of so many long tirades, was of all Germans 
the most sincerely democratic, until the Reign of Terror in France 
frightened him, as it did others, into more modified opinions. Not 
only was he always delighted to be with the people, and to share 
their homely ways, which were consonant with his own simple 
tastes, but we find him in the confidence of intimacy expressing his 
sympathy with the people in the heartiest terms. When among the 
miners he writes to his beloved, '* how strong my love has returned 
upon me for these lower classes ! which one calls the lower, but 
which in God's eyes are assuredly the highest ! Here you meet all 
the virtues combined : Contentedness, Moderation, Truth, Straight- 
forwardness, Joy in the slightest good, Harmlessness, Patience — 
Patience — Constancy in in .... I will not lose myself in pane- 
gyric !" Again, he is writing IjMgenia, but the news of the misery 
and famine among the stocking-weavers of Apolda paralyses him. 
"The drama will not advance a step: it is cursed; the King of 

• Since the text was written, the correspondence with the Fmu v. Stein has ap- 
peared ; and from it we learn that in Switzerland he even dictated some letiors to 
her ! It could not have been " diplomatic rudeness", inasmuch as he usually wrote 
to the Duke himseif through his amanuensis. 


Taoris must speak as if no stocking-weaver in Apolda felt the pangs 
of hunger V^ 

In striking contrast stands the expression of his contempt for 
what was called the great worlds as he w&tched it in his visits to 
the neighbouring courts. If aflTection bound him to Karl August^ 
whom he was formings and to Luise^ for whom he had a chivalrous 
regard, his eyes were not blind to the nullity of other princes and 
their followers. " Good society have I seen,'* runs one of his epi- 
grams, *'they call it the 'good' whenever there is not in it the 
material for tiie smallest of poems.'' 

Gate GeseUschalt haV ich gesehen ; miui nennt sie die g^ate 
Wenn sie zmn kleinBten Gedicht keine Gelegenlieit giebt. 

Notably was this the case in his journey with the Duke to Berlin, 
May 1778. He only remained a few days there ; saw much, and not 
without contempt. '' I have got quite close to old Fritz, having 
seen his way of Ufe, his gold, his silver, his statues, his apes, his 
parrots, and heard his own curs twaddle about the great man." 
Potzdam and Berlin were noisy with preparations for war. The 
great King was absent ; but Prince Henry received the poet in a 
friendly manner, and invited him and Karl August to dinner. At 
table there were several generals; but Goethe, who kept his eyes 
open, sternly kept his mouth closed. He seems to have felt no little 
contempt for the Prussian court, and its great men, who appeared 
very small men in his eyes. " I have spoken no word in the 
Prussian dominions which might not be made public. Therefore I 
am called haughty and so forth." Vamhagen intimates that the 
ill-will he excited by not visiting the literati, and by his reserve, was 
so great as to make him averse from hearing of his visit in after 
years.* What, indeed, as Vamhagen asks, had Goethe in common 
with Nicolai, Ramler, Bngel, Zellner, and the rest ? He did visit 
the poetess Karschin and the artist Chodowiecki j but from the rest 
he kept aloof. Berlin was not a city in which he could feel himself 
at home ; and^he doubtless was fully aware of the small account in 
which he was held by Frederick, whose admiration lay in quite other 
directions. What culture the King had was French, and his opinion 
of German literature had been very explicitly pronounced in a work 
published this year, in which Ooetz von Berltchingen was cited as a 
sample of the reigning bad taste. The passage is too curious to be 
omitted. ''Vous y verrez repr^senter les abominables pieces de 
Shakspear traduites en notre langue, et tout I'auditoire se pftmer 

• VermUchte Schriflen, iii, p. 62. 


d'aise en entendant ces farces ridicules, et dignes des sauvages tie 
Canada,** That certainly was afficting to " le bon godf ; but that 
was not the worst. Shakspeare might be pardoned for his faults, 
'' car la naissance des arts n'est jamais le point de leur maturity. 
Mais voilA encore un Goetz de Berlichingen qui parait sur la scene, 
imitation detestable de ces mauvaises pieces anglaises, et le parterre 
applandit et demande avec enthousiasme la r^p^tition de ces cU- 
goUtantes platitudes .'"* 

Thus the two German Emperors, Fritz and Wolfgang, held no 
spiritual congress ; perhaps no good result could have been elicited 
by their meeting. Yet they were, each in his own sphere, the two 
most potent men then reigning. Fritz did not directly assist the 
literature of his country, but his indirect influence has been indicated 
by Griepenkerl.f He awoke the Germans from their sleep by the 
rolling of drums ; those who least liked the clang of arms or the 
" divisions of a battle field^', were nevertheless awakened to the fact 
that something important was going on in life, and they rubbed 
their sleepy eyes, and tried to see a little into that. The roll of 
drums has this merit, at all events, that it draws men from their 
library table to the window, and so makes them look out upon the 
moving, living world of action, wherein the erudite may see a con- 
siderable sensation made even by men unable to conjugate a Greek 
verb in ''/xt".J 

On returning to Weimar, Goethe occupied himself with various 
architectural studies, Apropos of the rebuilding of the palace ; and 
commenced those alterations in the park, which resulted in the 
beautiful distribution formerly described. But I pass over many 
details of his activity, to narrate an episode which must win the 
heart of every reader. In these pages it has been evident, I hope, 
that no compromise with the truth has led me to gloss over faults, 
or to conceal shortcomings. All that testimony warrants I have re- 
produced : good and evil, as in the mingled yam of life. Faults and 
deficiencies, even grievous errors, do not estrange a friend from our 
hearts ; why should they lower a hero ? Why should the biographer 
fear to trust the tolerance of human sympathy ? Why labour to 
prove a hero faultless ? The reader is no valet de chamhre incapable 
of crediting greatness in a rohe de chamhre. Never should we forget 

* Dela Uttdrature Allemande, p. 46. His opinion of the newly discovered Niebel- 
ungen Lied was no less characteristically contemptuous : he declared he would not 
give such rubbish house-room. 

t Der Kunstgeniu8 der Deutschen Literatur des letzten Jahrhxmderts, I, p. 52. 

X Dr. George has become famous (or did become so — for, alas ! what is fame ?) by 
his shrewd suspicion that Frederick with all his victories could not accomplish i/uit 
feat of intellectual vigour. Many men stiU measure greatness by verbs in in. 


the profound saying of He<rel in answer to the vnlgar aphorism 
C No man is a hero to his valet de chambre") ; namely, " This is 
not the Hero is no Hero, but becaase the Valet is a Valet."* 
Having tm.stf'd to the effect which the true man wonld produce, in 
spite of all drawbacks, — and certain that the tme man was lovable 
as well as admirable, I have made no direct appeal to the reader's 
sympathy, nor tried to make out a case in favour of extraordinaiy 

But the tribute of affectionate applause is claimed now we have 
arrived at a passage in his hfe so duiraderisfir of the delicacy, gene- 
rosity, and nobility of his nature, that it is scarcely possible for any- 
one not to love him, after reading it. Of generosity, in the more 
ordinary sense, there are abundant examples in his history. Biemer 
has instanced several, t but these are atfts of kindness, thoughtful- 
ness, and courtesy, such as one expects to find in a prosperous poet. 
That he was kind, gave freely, sympathised freely, acted disin- 
terestedly, and that his kindness showed itself in trifles quite as 
much as in important actions (a most significant trait ^), is known 
to all persons moderately acquainted with German literature. But 
the disposition exhibited in the story I am about to tell is such as 
few persons would have imagined to be lying beneath the stately 
prudence, and calm self-mastery of the man so often styled '' heart- 

This is the story : A man (his name still remains a secret) of a 
strange, morbid, suspicious disposition, had fallen into destitution, 
partly from unfortunate circumstances, party from his own fault. 
He applied to Goethe for assistance, as so many others did ; and he 
painted his condition with all the eloquence of despair. 

*' According to the idea I form of you from your letters,'' writes 
Goethe, " I fancy I am not deceived, and this to me is very painful, 
in believing that I cannot give help or hope to one who needs so 
much. But I am not the man to say, * Arise, and go further.' Ac- 
cept the little that I can give, as a plank thrown towards you for 

• Nicht aber (laram weil dieser kein Held ist, sondem weil jener der Kammer- 
diener iBt." — Philosophie der Oeschichte, p. 40. GU)ethe repeated this as an epigram ; 
and Carl vie has wrought it into the minds of hundreds ; but Hegel is the originator. 

t Mitlheilunffm, vol. i, 102-5. 

X There is lamentable confusion in our estimate of character on this point of 
generosity. We often mistake a spasm of sensibility for the strength of lovingness 
— making an occnnvmal act of kindness the sign of a kind nature. Beiy. Constant 
says of himself: ** Je puis /aire de bonnes et fortes actions; je ne puis avoir de hon$ 
pror/iVs.** There* are hundreds like him. On the other hand, there are hundreds 
wlio willingly porf<imi ninny little imjIs of kindness and courtesy, but who never 
riso to the dignity of gi'iiorosity ; those are poor natui-es, ignorant of the g^rander 


momentary succour. If you remain longer whore you are, I will 
gladly see that in future you receive some slight assistance. In ac- 
knowledging the receipt of this money, pray inform me how far you 
can make it go. If you are in want of a dress, greatcoat, boots, op 
warm stockings, tell me so ; I have some that I can spare. 

" Accept this drop of balsam from the compendious medicine chest 
of the Samaritan, in the same spirit as it is oflPered/^ 

This was on the 2nd of November, 1778. On the 11th he writes 
again, and from the letter we see that he had resolved to do m&re 
than throw out a momentary plank to the shipwrecked man — ^in fact 
he had undertaken to support him. 

*' In this parcel you wiU receive a greatcoat, boots, stockings, and 
some money. My plan for you this winter is this : 

" In Jena living is cheap. I will arrange for board and lodging, 
etc., on the strictest economy, and will say it is for some one who, 
with a small pension, desires to live in retirement. When that is se- 
cured I will write to you ; you can then go there, establish yourself in 
your quarters, and I will send you cloth and lining, with the neces- 
sary money, for a coat, which you can get made, and I will inform 
the rector that you were recommended to me, and that you wish to 
Uve in retirement at the University. • 

*' You must then invent some plausible story, have your name 
entered on the books of the University, and no soul will ever in- 
quire more about you, neither Burgomaster nor Amtmann. 1 have 
not sent yon one of my coats, because it might he recognised in Jena. 
Write to me and let me know what you think of this plan, and at all 
events in what character you propose to present yourself.'' 

The passage in italics indicates great thoughtfulness. Indeed the 
whole of this correspondence shows the most tender consideration 
for the feelings of his prot^g^. In the postscript he says: ''And 
now step boldly forth again upon the path of life ! We live but 
once. . . . Yes, I know perfectly what it is to take the fate of 
another upon one's own shoulders, but you shall not perish I" On 
the 23rd he writes : 

''I received to-day your two letters of the 17th and 18th, and 
have so far anticipated their contents as to have caused inquiry to be 
made in Jena for the fullest details, as for one who wished to live 
there under the quiet protection of the University. Till the answer 
arrives keep you quiet at Gera, and the day after to-morrow I will 
send 3'^ou a parcel and say more. 

'' Believe me you are not a burden on me ; on the contrary, it 
teaches mo economy ; I frittfr away much of my income which 7 


might yparefor those in want. And do you think that your tears and 
blessings go for nothing ? He who has, mibst give, not bless ; and if 
the Oreat and ths Rich have divided between them tlie goods of this 
world, Fate has counterbalanced these by giv^ing to the wretched the 
pmvers of blessing, powers to which the fortunate know not how to 

Noble words I In the mouth of a pharisaical philanthropist d«- 
claiming instead of giving, there would be something revolting in 
such language ; but when we know that the hand which wrote these 
words was '^ open as day to meltiiig charity/^ when we know that (in 
spite of all other claims) he gave up for some years the sixth part of 
his very moderate income to rescue this stranger from want, when we 
know by the irrefragable arguments of deeds, that this language was 
no hollow phrase, but the deep and solemn utterance of a thoroughly 
human heart, then, I say, those words awaken reverberations within 
our hearts, calling up feelings of loving reverence for him who uttered 

How wise and kind is this also : '' Perhaps there will soon turn up 
occasions for you to be useful to me where you are, for it is not the 
Project-maker and Promisor, but he who in trifles affords real service, 
that^is welcome to one who would so willingly do something good 
and enduring. 

'^Hate not the poor philanthropists with their precautions and 
conditions, for one need pray diligently to retain, amid such bitter 
experience, the good will, courage, and levity of youth, which are 
the main ingredients of benevolence. And it is more than a benefit 
which God bestows when he calls us, who can so seldom do anything 
to lighten the burden of one truly wretched.^' 

The next letter, dated December 11th, explains itself: 

" Your letter of the 7th I received early this morning. And first, 
to calm your mind : you shall be forced to nothing ; the hundred 
dollars you shall have, live where you may ; but now listen to me. 

'' I know that to a man his ideas are realities ; and although the 
image you have of Jena is false, still I know that nothing is less 
easily reasoned away than such hypochondriacal anxieties. I think 
Jena the best place for your residence, and for many reasons. The 
University hits long lost its ancient wildness and aristocratic pre- 
judices ; the students are not worse than in other places, and among 
them there are some charming people. In Jena, they are so accus- 
tomed to the flux and reflux of men that no individual is remarked. 
And there are too many Uving in excessively straitened means, for 
poverty to be either a stigma or a noticeable peculiarity. Moreover 


it is a city where yoa can more easily procure all necessities. In 
the country during the winter^ ill^ and without medical advice, would 
not that be miserable T 

'^ Further, the people to whom I referred you are good domestic 
people, who, on my account, would treat you well. Whatever might 
occur to you, I should be in a condition, one way or another, to 
assist you. I could aid you in estabhshing yourself; need only for 
the present guarantee your board and lodging, and pay for it later 
on. I could give you a little on New Year's Day, and procure what 
was necessary on credit. You would be nearer to me. Every market 
day I could send you something — ^wine, victuals, utensils that would 
cost me little, and would make your existence more tolerable ; and 
I could thus make you more a part of my household expenses. The 
objection to Gera is, that communication with it is so difficult ; Ihings 
do not arrive at proper times, and cost money which benefits no one. 
You would probably remain six months in Jena before any one re- 
marked your presence. This is the reason why I preferred Jena to 
every other place, and you would do the same if you could but see 
things with untroubled vision. How, if you were to make a trial ? 
However, I know a fly can distract a man with sensitive nerves, and 
that, in such cases, reasoning is powerless. 

'^ Consider it : it will make all things easier. I promise you, you 
will be comfortable in Jena. But if you cannot overcome your ob- 
jections, then remain in Gera. At New Year you shall have twenty- 
five dollars, and the same regularly eveiy quarter. I cannot arrange 
it otherwise. I must look to my ovm household demands; that 
which I have given you already, because I was quite unprepared for 
it, has made a hole, which I must stop up as I can. If you were in 
Jena, I could give you some httle commissions to execute for me, 
and perhaps some occupation ; I could also make your personal ac- 
quaintance, and so on. But act just as your feelings dictate ; if my 
reasons do not convince you, remain in your present solitude. Com- 
mence the writing of your life, as you talk of doing, and send it me 
piecemeal, and be persuaded that I am only anxious for your quiet 
and comfort, and choose Jena simply because I could there do more 
for you.^^ 

The hypochondriacal fancies of the poor man were invincible ; 
and instead of going to Jena he went to Ilmenau, where Goethe 
secured him a home, and sent him books and money. Having thus 
seen to his material comforts, he besought him to occupy his mind 
by writing out the experience of his life, and what he had observed 
on his travels. In the following letter he refers to his other prot^g^, 
Peter Imbaumgarten. 


'' I am very glad the contract is settled. Your maintenance thus 
demands a hundred dollars yearly, and I will guarantee the twenty- 
five dollars quarterly, and contrive also that by the end of this 
month you shall receive a regular allowance for pocket money. I 
I will also send what I can in natura, such as paper, pens, sealing- 
wax, etc. M^nwhile here are some books. 

"Thanks for your news ; continue them. The wish to do good is 
a bold, proud wish ; we must be thankful when we can secure even a 
little bit. I have now a proposition to make. When you are in your 
new quarters I wish you would pay some attention to a boy, whose 
education I have undertaken, and who learns the huntsman^s craft in 
Ilmenau. He has begun French ; could you not assist him in it ? 
He draws nicely ; could you not keep him to it ? I would fix the 
hours when he should come to you. You would lighten my anxiety 
about him if you could by friendly intercourse ascertain the condi- 
tion of his mind, and inform me of it ; and if you could keep an eye 
upon his progress. But of course this depends on your feeling dis- 
posed to undertake such a task. Judging from myself — intercourse 
with children always makes me feel young and happy. On hearing 
your answer, I will write more particulars. You mill d^o me a real 
service, and I shall be able to add monthly tlw trifle ^vhich I have set 
aside for the boy's education, I trust I shall still be able to lighten 
your sad condition, so that you may recover your cheerfulness.'' 

Let me call attention to the delicacy with which he here intimates 
that he does not mean to occupy Kraft's* time without remunerating 
it. If that passage be thoroughly considered, it will speak as much 
for the exquisite kindness of Goethe's nature as any greater act of 
liberality. Few persons would have considered themselves unen- 
titled to ask such a service from one whose existence they had 
secured. To pay for it would scarcely have entered their thoughts. 
But Goethe felt that to demand a service, which might be irksome, 
would, in a certain way, be selling benevolence ; if he employed 
Kraft's time, it was right that he should pay what he would have 
paid another master. On the other hand, he instinctively shrunk 
from the indelicacy of making a decided bargain. It was necessary 
to intimate that the lessons would be paid for ; but with that intima- 
tion he also conveyed the idea that in undertaking such a task Kraft 
would be conferring an obligation upon him ; so that Kraft might 
show his gratitude, might benefit his benefactor, and nevertheless 
be benefited. After reading such a sentence, I could, to use Wie- 
land's expression, " have eaten Goethe for love !" 

* Herr Kraft was the assumed name of this still anonymous prot^g6. 


Kraft accepted the charge; and Goethe having sent him some 
linen for shirts, some cloth for a coat, and begged him to write with- 
out the least misgiving, now sends this letter : 

'^ Many thanks for your care of Peter ; the boy greatly interests 
me, for he is a legacy of the unfortunate lAndau, Do him all the 
good you can quietly. How you may advance him ! I care not 
whether he reads, draws, or learns French, so that he does occupy 
his time, and I hear your opinion of him. For the present, let him 
consider his first object is to acquire the huntsman's craft, and try to 
learn from him how he likes it, and how he gets on with it. For, 
believe me, man must have a trade which will support him. The 
artist is never paid ; it is the artizan. Chodowiecki, the artist whom 
we admire, would eat but scanty mouthftils ; but Chodowiecki, the 
artizan, who with his woodcuts illumines the most miserable daubs, 
he is paid.'' 

In a subsequent letter he says, '' Many thanks. By your atten- 
tion to these things, and your care of Peter, you have performed 
true service for me, and richly repaid all that I may have been able 
to do for you. Be under no anxiety about the future, there will cer- 
tainly occur opportunities wherein you can be useful to me ; mean- 
while, continue as heretofore." This was written on the very day of 
his return to Weimar from the Swiss journey ! If this tells us of 
his attention to his prot^g^, the next letter tells us of his anticipating 
even the casualty of death, for he had put Kraft on the list of those 
whom he left as legacies of benevolence to his friends. It should be 
remarked that Goethe seems to have preserved profound secresy with 
respect to the good he was then doing ; not even in his confidential 
letters to Frau von Stein is there one hint of Kraft's existence. In 
short, nothing is wanting to complete the circle of genuine benevo- 

The year 1781 began with an increase of Kraft's pension; or 
rather, instead of paying a hundred dollars for his board and lodging, 
and allowing him pocket-money, he made the sum two hundred 
dollars. ^^I can spare as much as that; and you need not be anxious 
about eveiy trifle, but can lay out your money as you please. Adieu; 
and let me soon hear that all your sorrows have left you." This 
advance seems to have elicited a demand for more money, which 
produced the following characteristic answer : 

" You haye done well to disclose the whole condition of your 
mind to me ; I can make all allowances, little as I may be able to 
completely calm you. My own aSJairs will not permit me to promise 
you a farthing more than the two hundred dollars, unless I were to 


get into debt, which in my place would be very unseemly. This sum 
you shall receive regularly. Try to make it do. 

*' I certainly do not suppose that you will change your place of 
residence without my knowledge and consent. Every man has his 
duty, make a duty of your love to me and you will find it Ught. 

^' It would be very disagreeable to me if you were to borrow from 
anyone. It is precisely this miserable unrest now troubling you 
which has been the misfortune of your whole life, and you have never 
been more contented with a thousand dollars than you now are with 
two hundred ; because you always still desired something which you 
had not, and have never accustomed your soul to accept the limits of 
necessity. I do not reproach you with it ; I know, unhappily too 
well, how it pertains to you, and feel how painful must be the con- 
trast between your present and your past. But enough ! One word 
for a thousand : at the end of every quarter you shall receive fifty 
dollars; for the present an advance shall be made. Limit your 
wants : the Mvst is hard, and yet solely by this Must can we show 
how it is with us in our inner man. To live according to caprice 
requires no peculiar powers.*^* 

The following explains itself: 

'' If you once more read over my last letter you will see plainly 
that you have misinterpreted it. You are neither fallen in my 
esteem^ nor have I a bad opinion of you, neither have I suffered my 
good opinion to be led astray, nor has your mode of thinking become 
damaged in my eyes : all these are exaggerated expressions, such as 
a rational man should not permit himself; Because I also speak out 
my thoughts with freedom, because I wish certain traits in your con- 
duct and views somewhat different, does that mean that I look on 
you as a bad man, and that I wish to discontinue our relations ? 

''It is these hypochondriacal, weak and exaggerated notions, such 
as your last letter contains, which I blame and regret. Is it proper 
that you should say to me : I am to prescribe the tone in which all 
yourfwhire letters must be written. Does one command an honour- 
able, rational man such things as that ? Is it ingenuous in you on 
such an occasion to umderline the words that you eat my bread? Is it 
becoming in a moral being, when one gently blames him, or names 
something in him as a malady, to fly out as if one had pulled the 
house about his ears 7 Do not misconstrue me, therefore, if I wish 
to see you contented and satisfied with the little I can do for you. 

* I will give the originaJ of this fine saying, as I have rendered it but clumsily : 
Das MuB8 iflt hart, aber beim Muss kann der Mensch allein zeigen wie's inwendig 
mit ihm steht. Willktirlich leben kann jeder. 


So, if you will, things shall remain just as they were ; at all events 
I shall not change my behaviour towards you/' 

The unhappy man seems to have been brought to a sense of his 
injustice by this, for although there is but one more letter, bearing 
the date 1 783, that is, two years subsequent to the one just given, 
the connection lasted for seven years. When Goethe undertook to 
write the life of Duke Bemhard he employed Kraft to make extracts 
for him from the Archives ; which extracts, Luden, when he came 
to look over them with a biographical purpose, found utterly 
worthless.* The last words we find of Goethe's addressed to Kraft 
are, '^ You have already been of service to me, and other opportuni- 
ties will offer. I have no grace to dispense, and my favour is not so 
fickle. Farewell, and enjoy your little in peace.'' It was terminated 
only by the death of the poor creature in 1785. Goethe buried him 
at his own expense, but even to the Jena officials he did not disclose 
Kraft's real name.f 

To my apprehension these letters reveal a nature so exquisite 
in far-thoughted tenderness, so true and human in its sympathies 
with suffering, and so ready to alleviate suffering by sacrifices 
rarely made to friends, much less to strangers, that, after reading 
them, the epithets of ^'cold" and '^heartless," often applied to 
Goethe, sound like blasphemies against the noblest feelings of 
humanity. Observe, this Kraft was no romantic object appealing 
to the sensibility ; he had no thrilling story to stimulate sympathy ; 
there was no subscription list opened for him ; there were no 
coteries weeping over his misfortunes. Unknown, unfriended, ill 
at ease with himself and with the world, he revealed his wretched- 
ness in secret to the great poet, and in secret that poet pressed 
his hand, dried his eyes, and ministered to his wants. And he did 
this not as one act, not as one passing impulse, but as the sus- 
tained sympathy of seven years. 

Pitiful and pathetic is the thought that such a man can, for so 
many years, both in his own country and in ours, have been re- 
proached, nay even vituperated as cold and heartless ! A certain 
reserve and stiffness of maimer, a certain soberness of old age, a 
want of political enthusiasm, and some sentences wrenched from 
their true meaning, are the evidences whereon men build the strange 
hypothesis that he was an Olympian Jove sitting above Humanity, 
seeing life but not feeling it, his heart dead to all noble impulses, his 

* See Ludbn's Bilckblicke in Mein Leben. 

t I learn this from a letter to the Judge at Jena, which was exhibited at the 
Ooethe Austellung in Berlin, 1861. 


career a calculated egotism. How it was that one so heartless be- 
came the greatest poet of modem times — ^how it was that he whose 
works contained the widest compass of human life, should himself 
be a bloodless pulseless diplomatist — no one thought of explaining, 
till Menzel arose, aud with unparalleled eflfrontery maintained that 
Goethe had no genius, but only talent, and that the miracle of his 
works lies in their style — a certain adroitness in representation. 
Menzel is a man so completely rejected by England — the translation 
of his work met with such hopeless want of encouragement, that I 
am perhaps wrong to waste a line upon it ; but the bold style in 
which his trenchant accusations are made, and the assumption of a 
certain manliness as the momentum to his sarcasms, have given his 
attacks on Goethe a circulation independent of his book. To me he 
appears radically incompetent to appreciate a poet. I should as 
soon think of asking the first stalwart Kentish farmer for his opinion 
on the Parthenon. The farmer would doubtless utter some energetic 
sentences expressing his sense of its triviality; 'but the coarse 
energy of his language would not supply the place of knowledge, 
feeling, and taste ; nor does the coarse energy of MenzePs style 
supply those deficiences of nature and education which incapacitate 
him for the perception of Art. 

The paradox still remains, then, in spite of Menzel : a great poet 
destitute of the feelings which poetry incarnates — a man destitute of 
soul giving expression to all the emotions he has not — ^a man who 
wrote Weriher^ Egmont, Faust, Hermann und Dorothea, and Meister, 
yet knew not the joys and sorrows of his kind ; will any one defend 
that paradox ?* Not only that paradox, but this still more inexpli- 
cable one, that all who knew Goethe, whether they were his peers or 
his servants, loved him only as lovable natures can be loved. 
Children, women, clerks, professors, poets, princes — all loved him. 
Even Herder, bitter against every one, spoke of him with a reverence 
which astonished Schiller, who writes : ^^ He is by many besides 
Herder named with a species of devotion, and still more loved as a 
man than admired as an author. Herder says he has a clear, uni- 
versal mind, the truest and deepest feeling, and the greatest purity 
of heart.'^t Men might learn so much from his works, had not the 

• I remember once, as we were walking along Piccadilly, talking about the in- 
famouB Biichlein von Ooethe, Carlyle stopped suddenly, and with his peculiar look 
and emphasis, said, "Yes, it is the wild cry of amazement on the part of all 
spooneys that the Titan was not a spooney too ! Here is a godlike intellect, and 
yet you see he is not an idiot ! Not in the least a spooney !" 

t BHqfw. mit KSmer, i, p. 136. 


notion of his coldness and indiflTerence disturbed their judgment. 
'* In no line," says Carlyle, " does he speak with asperity of any 
man, scarcely of anything. He knows the good and loves it ; he 
knows the bad and hateful and rejects it ; but in neither case with 
violence. His love is calm and active ; his rejection implied rather 
than pronounced." 

And Schiller, when he came to appreciate by daily intercourse the 
qualities of his great fiiend, thus wrote of him : '' It is not the great- 
ness of his intellect which binds me to him. If he were not as a 
man more admirable than any I have ever known, I should only 
marvel at his genius from the distance. But I can truly say that in 
the six years I have lived with him, I have never for one moment 
been deceived in his character. He has a high truth and integrity, 
and is thoroughly in earnest for the Eight and the Good ; hence all 
hypocrites and phrasemakers are uncomfortable in his presence." 
And the man of whom Schiller could think thus is believed by many 
to have been a selfish egotist, "wanting in the higher moral 
feelings" ! 

But so it is in life : a rumour, originating perhaps in thoughtless 
ignorance, and circulated by malice, gains credence in the face of 
probability, and then no amount of evidence suffices to dissipate it. 
There is an atmosphere round certain names, a halo of glory or a 
halo of infamy, and men perceive this halo without seeking to ascer- 
tain its origin. Every public man is in some respects mythical; 
and the fables are believed in spite of all the contradictions of evi- 
dence. It is useless to hope that men will pause to inquire into the 
truth of what they hear said of another, before accepting and repeat- 
ing it ; but with respect to Goethe, who has now been more than a 
quarter of a century in his grave, one may hope that evidence so 
strong as these pages furnish may be held more worthy of credence 
than anything which gossip or ignorance, misconception or partizan-^ 
ship has put forth without proof. 


1779 to 1793. 

' Wenn sich der Most auch gonz abaurd gebfixdet, 
Es giebt znletzt docli nocb 'nen Wein." 

'Von jener Macht, die aJle Weaen bindet 
Befreit der Meoflch sioh der aich ftberwindet.' 

'' PoBtqnam me experientia docait, omnia^ qiuD in oommnni yita frequenter oooor- 
mnt, Yana et ftitilia esse; qnnm Tiderem onuiia^ aqnibns et qnm thnebam, nihil ne- 
qae boni neque mail in se habere, nisi qnatenns ab iia animns moTebatnr : oonstdtoi 
tandem inqnirere, an aliqnid daretor quod Terom bonnm et mii oonmmnicabile esset, 
et a quo solo r^ectis ceteris omnibus animus afficeretur; imo an aHquid daretur, 
quo invento et aoqnisito oontinua ac summa in fetemum fruerer Istitia." 



Ths changes slowly determining the evolution of character, when 
from the lawlessness of Youth it passes into the clear stability of 
Manhood, resemble the evolution of harmony in the tuning of an or- 
chestra, when from stormy discords wandering in pursuit of concord, 
all the instruments gradually subside into the true key : round a small 
centre the hurrying sounds revolve, one by one falling into that cen- 
tre, and increasing its circle, at first slowly, and afterwards with 
ever-accelerated velocity, till victorious concord emerges from the 
tumult. Or they may be likened to the gathering splendour of the 
dawn, as at first slowly, and afterwards with silent velocity, it drives 
the sullen darkness to the rear, and with a tidal sweep of light takes 
tranquil possession of the sky. Images such as these represent the 
dawn of a new epoch in Goethe's life ; an epoch when the wander- 
ings of an excitable nature are gradually falling more and more 
within the circle of law ; when aims, before vague, now become 

1779.] NEW BIRTH. S59 

clear ; when in the recesses of his mind mnch that was fluent becomes 
crystallised by the earnestness which gives a definite purpose to his 
life. All men of genius go through this process of crystallisation. 
Their youths are disturbed by the turbulence of errors and of pas- 
sions ; if they outlive these errors they convert them into advan- 
tages. Just as the sides of great mountain ridges are rent by fis- 
sures filled with molten rock^ which fissures^ when the lava cools^ act 
like vast supporting ribs strengthening the moimtain mass^ so^ in 
men of genius^ passions first rend^ and afterwards buttress life. The 
diamond^ it is said, can only be polished by its own dust ; is not this 
symbohcal of the truth that only by its own faUings-o£f can genius 
properly be taught f And is not our very walk, as Goethe says, a 
series of falls 7 

He was now (1779) entering his thirtieth year^ Life slowly 
emerged from the visionary mists through which hitherto it had been 
seen ; the solemn earnestness of manhood took the place of the 
vanishing thoughtlessness of youth, and gave a more commanding 
unity to his existence- He had "resolved to deal with Life no 
longer by halves, but to work it out in its totality, beauty, and good- 
ness— -i;<wi Halben zu entwohnen, und im Oanzen, Outen, Schanen 
resohit zu hbenJ* It is usually said that the residence in Italy was 
the cause of this change ; but the development of his genius was the 
real cause. The sUghtest acquaintance with the period we are now 
considering suflSces to prove that long before he went to Italy the 
change had taken place. An entry in his Diary at this date is veiy 
significant. " Put my things in order^ looked through my papers, 
and burnt all the old chips. Other times^ other cares I GiJm retro- 
spect of Life, and the extravagances, impulses, and eager desires of 
youth ; how they seek satisfaction in all directions. How. I have 
found delight, especially in mysteries, in dark imaginative connec- 
tions ; how I only half seized hold of Science, and then let it slip ; 
how a sort of modest self-complacency runs through all I wrote ) how 
short-sighted I was in divine and human things ; how many days 
wasted in sentiments and shadowy passions ; how little good I have 
drawn from them, and now the half of life is over, I find myself ad- 
vanced no step on my way, but stand here as one who, escaped from 
the waves, begins to dry himself in the sun. The period in which I 
have mingled with the world since October, 1775, I dare not yet 
trust myself to look at. God help me further, and give me light, 
that I may not so much stand in my own way, but see to do from 
morning till evening the work which lies before me, and obtain a 
clear conception of the order of things y that I be not as those are 



who spend the day in complaining of headache^ and the night in 
drinking the wine which gives the headache !" 

There is something quite solemn in those words. The 
thought is expressed in a letter to Lavater : ^' The desire to raise the 
pyramid of my existence^ the basis of which is already laid^ as high 
as practicable in the air, absorbs every other desire, and scarcely 
ever quits me. I dare not longer delay ; I am already advanced in 
life, and perhaps Death will break in at the middle of my work, and 
leave the Babylonic tower incomplete. At least men shall say it was 
boldly schemed, and if I live, my powers shall, with Gbd's aid, reach 
the completion/' And in a recently published letter to the Duke, 
he says : '^ I let people say what they will, and then I retire into my 
old fortress of Poetry and work at my Iphigenia, By this I am 
made sensible that I have been treating this heavenly gift somewhat 
too cavalierly, and there is still time and need for me to become more 
economical if ever I am to bring forth anything/'* 

No better index of the change can be named than his Iphtgenia 
auf Tajuris, written at this period. The reader will learn with some 
surprise that this wonderful poem was originally written in prose. 
It was the fashion of the day. Gotz^ Egmont, Tasso, and Iphigenia, 
no less than Schiller's Bobbers, Fiesco, Kahale vmd Idebe, were written 
in prose ; and when Iphigema assumed a poetic form, the Weimar 
friends were disappointed — they preferred the prose. 

This was part of the mania for returning to Nature. Verse was 
pronounced unnatural ; although, in truth, verse is not more un- 
natural than song. Song is to speech what poetry is to prose ; it 
expresses a different mental condition. Impassioned prose ap^ 
preaches poetry in the rhythmic impulse of its movements ; as impas-^ 
sioned speech in its varied cadences also approaches the intonations 
of music. Under great emotional excitement, the Arabs give their 
language a recognisable metre, and almost talk poetry. But prose 
never is poetry, or is so only for a moment ; nor is speech song. 
Schiller learned to see this, and we find him writing to Goethe, " 1 
have never before been so palpably convinced as in my present oc- 
cupation how closely in poetry Substance and Form are connected. 
Since I have began to transform my prosaic language into a poetio 
rhythmical one, I find myself under a totally different jurisdiction; 
even many motives which in the prosaic execution seemed to me to 
be perfectly in place, I can no longer use : they were merely good for 
the com/mon domestic tmderstcmding, whose organ prose seems to be ; 

* Briefweehsel swiBchen Karl August und Ooethe, i, 11. 

1779] JfEW BIRTH. 261 

but verse absolutely demands reference to the imagination^ and thus 
I was obliged to become poetical in many of my motives." 

That Goethe should have fallen into the sophism which asserted 
prose to be more natural than verse is surprising. His mind was 
full of song. To the last he retained the faculty of singing melodi- 
ously^ when his prose had degenerated into comparative feebleness. 
And this prose Iphigenia is saturated with verses ; which is also the 
case with EgmonL He meant to write prose, but his thoughts in- 
stinctively expressed themselves in verse. The critictJ reader will 
do well to compare the prose with the poetic version.* He will not 
only see how frequent the verses are, but how few were the altera- 
tions necessary to be made to transform the prose drama into a 
poem. They are just the sort of touches which elevate poetry above 
prose. Thus, to give an eattnple, in the prose he says: unniltz 
seyn, ist todt seyn (to be useless is to be dead), which thus grows 
into a verse — 

Ein unntLtz Leben ist ein fruher Tod.t 

Again in the speech of Orestes (Act n, sc. i), there is a fine and 
terrible allusion to Clytemnestra, '' Better die here before the altar 
than in an obscure nook where the nets of murderous near relatives 
are placed." In the prose this allusion is not clear — Orestes simply 
says, the ''nets of assassins". t 

The alterations do not touch the substance of this drama; we 
must therefore consider it a product of the period now under review ; 
and as such we may examine it at once. 

* See vol. xxxiv of the edition of 1840. 

t A life not useful is an early death. 

X Neither Taylor nor Miss Swanwick appears to have seized the allusion. One 
translates it, " by the knives of avenging kindred** ; the other, " where near hands 
have spread assassination's wily net^'. 




It was very characieristic in Schlegel to call Iphigenia *'eai echo of 
Greek song'' ; lie delighted in each rhetorical prettinesses ; but that 
German scholars should have so often repeated the phrase^ and shonid 
have so often without misgiving deCSared Iphigenia to be the finest 
modern specimen of Greek tragedy, is truly surprising, imtil we 
reflect on the mass of flagrant traditional errors afloat respecting the 
Greek drama. For a long while the Three Unities were held to be 
inseparable from that drama; in spite of the fact that in several 
plays Unity of Time is obviously disregarded, and in two or three 
the Unity of Place is equally so. Again there was the notion that 
Comedy and Tragedy were not suflered to mingle in the same play ; 
in spite of the palpable fact of ^schylus and Euripides having min- 
gled them. It was also believed that Destiny formed the tragic- 
pivot ; in spite of the fact, that in the majority of these plays Destiny 
has no place, beyond what the religious conceptions of the poets 
must of necessity have given to it, just as Christianity must of ne- 
cessity underlie the tragic conceptions of Christian poets. 

The very phrase with which critics characterise Iphigenia is suffi- 
cient to condemn them. They tell us it has ''all ttie repose of 
Greek tragedy''. Consider it for a moment : Repose in a tragedy ! 
that is to say, calmness in the terrific upheaving of volcanic passions. 
Tragedy, we are told by Aristotle, acts through Terror and Piiy, 
awakening in our bosoms sympathy with suffering; and to suppose 
this effect can be accomplished by the ''meditative repose which 
breathes from eveiy verse'', is tantamount to supposing a battle- 
song will most vigorously stir the blood of combatants if it borrow 
the accents of a lullaby. 

Insensibly our notions of Greek art are formed from sculpture ; 
and hence, perhaps, this notion of repose. But acquaintance with 
the drama ought to have prevented such an error, and taught men 
not to confound calmness of evolution with calmness of life. The 
unagitated simplicity of Greek scenic representation lay in the na- 

1779.] IPHIGBNIA, 263 

tnre of the scenic necessities ; but we do not call the volcano cold^ 
because the snow rests on its top. Had the Grreek drama been ez'- 
hibited on stages like those of modem Europe^ and performed by 
actors without cothurnus and mask, its deep agitations of passion 
would have welled up to the surface, communicating responsive agita- 
tions to the form. But there were reasons why this could not be. 
In the Grecian drama, everything was on a scale of vastness com- 
mensurate with the needs of an audience of many thousands ; and 
consequently everything was disposed in masses rather than in de- 
tailfl ; it thus necessarily assumed something of the sculpturesque 
fonn, threw itself into magnificent groupings, and, with a view to 
its effect, adapted a peculiar eurhythmio construction. It thus as- 
sumed slowness of movement, because it could not be rapid without 
distortion. If the critic doubts this, let him mount on stilts and, 
bawling though a speaking^tmn^et, tiy what he can make of Shak- 
speare ; he will then have an approximative idea of the restraints 
laid upon the Grecian actor, who, clothed so as to aggrandise his 
person, and speaking through a resonant mask, which had a fixed 
expression, could not act, in our modem sense of the word, but 
could only declaim ; he had no means of representing the fiudfoa'- 
iions of passion, and the poet therefore was forced to make him 
represent passion in broad, fixed masses. Hence the movement of 
the Greek drama was necessarily large, slow, and simple. 

But if we pierce beneath scenic necessities and attend solely to 
the dramatic life which pulses through the Gbedan tragedies, what 
sort of calmness meets us there f Calmness is a relative word. 
Polyphemus hurling rocks- as school-boys throw cherry-stones, would 
doubtless smile at our riots, as we smile at buzzing flies ; and Moloch 
howling through the unfathomable wilderness in passionate repent- 
ance of his fall, would envy us the wildest of our despair, and call it 
calnmess. But measured by human standards I know not whose 
sorrow ''can bear such emphasis'' as to pronounce those pulses 
calm which throb in the (Ediptts, the Agamemrum, or the Ajaas. 
The Labdacidan Tale is one of the sombrest threads woven by the 

The subjects selected by the Greek dramatists are almost uni- 
formly such as to call into play the darkest passions : madness, adul- 
tery, and murder in Agamer/mon; revenge, murder, and matricide 
in the Choephoroe; incest in (Edijpua; jealousy and infanticide in 
Medea; incestuous adultery in Hippolyius ; madness in Ajax; and 
BO on throughout the series. The currents of these passions are for 
ever kept in agitation, and the alternations of pity and terror close 


only with the closing of the scene. In other words^ in spite of the 
slowness of its scenic presentation this drama is distinguished by 
the very absence of the repose which is pronounced its characteristic. 

Here we meet with the first profound difference separating, Groethe 
from the Greek dramatist. The repose which was forced upon the 
Greek, which formed one of his restraints, as the hardness of the 
marble restrains the sculptor, Goethe has adopted under conditions 
which did not force him ; while the repose, which the Greek kept 
only at the surface, Goethe has allowed to settle down to the core. 
In what was accidental, temporal, he has imitated Greek Art ; in 
the one essential characteristic he has not imitated it. Bacine, so 
unjustly treated by Schlegel, has given us the passionate life of the 
Greek Drama, in spite of his Madame Hermione and Monmeur 
Oreste ; in imitating the slow scenic movement he has also imitated 
the dramatic agitation of the undeii^kd^nt. 

Goethe's Iphigenia, then, we must cease to regard according to 
Hie Grecian standard. It is a German play. It substitutes profound 
moral struggles, for the passionate struggles of the old legend. It 
is not Greek in ideas nor in sentiment. It is German, and trans^ 
ports Germany of the eighteenth century into Scythia during the 
mythic age, quite as absolutely as Racine places the Court of Veir 
sailles in the Camp of Aulis ; and with the same ample justifica- 
tion.* The points in which Goethe's work resembles the Greek, 
are, first, the slowness of its scenic movement and simplicity of its 
Action, which produce a corresponding cabnness in the dialogue ; and 
secondly, a saturation of mythic lore. All the rest is German. And 
this SchiUer, as a dramatist, clearly saw. '^ I am astonished,'' he 
says, ''to find this piece no longer makes the same favourable im- 
pression on me that it did formerly; though I still recognise it as a 
work full of soul. It is, however, so astonishi/ngly modem and un- 
Greek that I cannot understand ho^v it was ever thought to resemble a 
Oreeh play. It is purely moral, but the sensuous power, the life, the 
.agitation, and everything which spedjically belongs to a dramatic 
work is wanting. Goethe has himself spoken slightingly of it, but I 
took that as a mere caprice or coquetry; now I understand him." 

Schiller adds, however, that apart from the dramatic form, ijpAt- 
genia is a marvellous production, which must for ever remain the 
delight and wonderment of mankind. This is striking the right 

• This error of local colouring, whicli critics more erudite than acute have ridi- 
culed in Bacine, is not only an error commanded by the very conditions of Art, but 
is the very error committed by the Greeks themselves. In this play of Iphigenidy 
Euripides has committed anachronisms as gross as any chargeable to Bacine ; and 
justly : he wrote for the audience of his day, he did not write for antiquity. 

1779.] IPHIGBNIA. 265 

chord. A drama it is not ; it is a marvellous dramatic poem. The 
grand and solemn movement of its evolution responds to the large 
and simple ideas which it unfolds. It has the calmness of majesty. 
In the limpid clearness of its language^ the involved mental processes 
of the characters are as transparent as the operations of bees within 
a crystal hive ; while a constant strain of high and lofty music makes 
the reader feel as if in a holy temple. And above all witcheries of 
detail there is the one capital witchery, belonging to Greek statues 
more than to any other works of human cunning — the perfect unity 
of impression produced by the whole, so that nothing in it seems 
made^ but all to grow, nothing is superfluous, but all is in organic de- 
pendence, nothing is there for detached effect, but the whole is effect. 
The poem fills the mind; beautiftd as the separate passages are, 
admirers seldom think of jpas^ages, they think of the wondrous 
whole. -i 

L cannot in language less than hyperbolical express my admira- 
tion for this work Considered in itself; as a drama, I think an in- 
structive parallel might be drawn between it and the Iphigeneia of 
Euripides. The enormous superiority of Goethe in intellectual sta- 
ture, even aided by the immeasurable advantage he has of writing 
in a language which is in some sort our own, would not cover his 
inferiority as a dramatist. 

In Euripides we have this groundwork : Iphigenia, about to be 
sacrificed at Aulis, was snatched away in a cloud by Diana, and a 
hind substituted in her place ; she is now priestess of Diana in 
Tauris, where she presides over the bloody sacrifice of every stranger 
thrown on the inhospitable shores. Orestes and Pylades, in obedi- 
ence to the oracle, come to Tauris intent on bearing away the Image 
of Diana: that accomplished, Orestes is to be released from the 
Furies who pursue him. The two are seized, and brought to Iphi- 
genia for sacrifice. A recognition takes place ; and she aids them in 
their original design of carrying away the goddess. They are pur- 
sued by the Scythians, but Minerva appears, to cut the knot and 
calm the rage of Thoas. 

This story Goethe has modernised. The characters are essentially 
different, the moral elements are different, and the effect is dif- 
ferent. His Iphigenia, every way superior to the Greek priestess, 
has the high, noble, tender, delicate soul of a Christian maiden. 
Forced to fulfil the duties of a Priestess, she subdues by her mild 
influence the fierce prejudice of Thoas, and makes him discontinue 
the barbarous practice of human sacrifices. She, who herself had 
been anointed as a sacrifice, could she preside over the sacrifice of 



another ? This sympathy is modem. No Greek would have suffered 
her own personal feelings thus to rise up in rebellion against a reli- 
gious rite. The key note is strack here^ and this tone sonnds 
through the whole piece. 

Iphigenia is melancholy^ and pines for her native shores^ in spite 
of the honour which attends^ and the good she effects by her infla- 
ence on Thoas. The fate of her family perturbs her. Thoas has 
conceived a passion for her. 

Thou Bharedst my sonow when a hoetale sword 

Tore from my side my last, my dearest son s 

Long aa fierce vengeana^oeeupied my heart, 

I did not feel my dioeUtnjrf* dreary void ; 

But now, retoming home, my rage appeased. 

My foes defeated and my son ayenged, 

I find there's nothing left to oomfort me.* 

And he expresses a hope to '^ bear her to his dwelling as a bride'', 
which she gSntly evades; he then taxes her with the mysteiy in 
which she has shrouded herself. She answers — 

If I oonoealed, O kmg, my name and race, 

'Twas fesf which prompted me, and not mistrost ; 

For didst then know who stands before thee now. 

And what aocnrsed head thy aim protects, 

A shuddering honor would possess thy heart; 

And, fax from wishing me to share thy throne, 

Wooldst banish me perohanoe. 

Thoas replies^ with generosity^ that nothing shall make him cease 

his protection. 

In my ^«^i»«lw 
The goddess placed thee; thoa hast been to me 
As sacred as to her, and her behest 
Shall for the future also be my law. 
If thou canst hope in safety to return 
Back to thy kuidred, I renounce my dsims. 

This promise becomes an important agent in the denouements and is 
skilfully contrived. Iphigenia^ urged by him to speak out^ utters 
this tremendous liae : 

Enow ! I issue from the race of Tantalus !t 
Thoas is staggered; but after she has narrated the stoiy of her 

* In all extracts from this work I avail myself of the translation by Hiss Swah- 
wicK {BdeeOone from Ooethe and SehiUer), which is many degrees superior to that 
of the late Williak Tatlob (Survey of Oerman Poetry, vol. iii). Feeling, as I 
profoundly feel, the insuperable difficulties of translating Ooethe into Enmsh, it 
would ill become me to criticise Miss Swanwick's version ; but it would also be veiy 
uigust not to add, that all versions miss the exauisite beauty of the original, and 
resemble it no more than a rough woodcut resembles a Titian, 
t Vemimm : ieh bin out Tantdtus QeeMeeht, 

Miss Ssranwick, from metrical necessity, has weakened this into :— 
" Attend : I issue from the Titan's race." 
It was indispensable to preserve the name of Tantalus, so pregnant with terrible 

1779.] IPHIOENIA. 267 

lace^ he repeats his ofPer of marriage^ which she will not accept. 
Irritated by her refusal^ he exclaims : 

Be priestess still 
Of the gieat goddess who selected thee; 
And may she pardon me that I firom her 
Ui^iastly, and with secret self-reproach. 
Her ancient sacrifice so long withheld. 
From olden tunes no stranger near'd onr shore 
Bht fell a victim at her sacred shrine ; 
But thou with kind affection didst enthral me 
That I forgot my duty. Then didst rock 
My senses in a dream : I did not hear 
My people's murmurs : now they cry aloud^ 
Ascribing my poor son's untimely death 
To this my guilt. No longer for thy sake 
Will I oppose the wishes of the crowd 
Who urgently demand the sacrifice. 

, . . ^ 

Two strangers, whom in caverns of the shore 
We found concealed, and whose arrival here 
Bodes to my realm no good, are in my power : 
With them thy goddess may once more resume 
Her ancient, pious, long-suspended rites. 

Thus ends the first act. 

In the conception of Thoas a great dramatic collision is rendered 
impossible : so high and generous a nature cannot resist an appeal to 
his generosity; and thus the spectator foresees there will be no 
struggle. In Euripides^ on the contrary^ the fierce Scythian looms 
from the dark back-ground^ terrible as fate ; and he is artfully with- 
held from appearing on the scene until the very last. How he is to 
be appeased no spectator foresees. To be sure he is appeased by a 
Deus ex mcLchina, and not by a dramatic unravelling of the entangled 
threads; but this inferiority is^ dramatically speakings more than 
compensated by the efiect of the collision^ and the agitation kept up 
to the last. Thoas^ in Goethe^ is a moraJ, not a dramiatic figure.* 

The carelessness to all dramatic effect which weakens this play is 
seen in the very avoidance of a path Euripides had opened^ viz.^ the 
certainty in the mind of the audience that Orestes and Fylades are 
the two captives to be slaughtered. In Euripides^ Orestes and his 
companion appear on the scene before they are made prisoners ; in 
Goethe^ not till after their capture has been announced. The efiect 

* The notion of maMng Thoas in love is not new. Laobanox-Chancxl, in his 
Oreste et Pylade (a real treat to any one with a perception of the ludicrous)^ has 
thrown as much " galanterie" into this play as one may find in an opera, llioas 
loves Iphijg^nie, who loves Pylade ; but while the tyrant sighs in vain, the truculent 
ScyUiian is sighed for 1^ Thomyris, prineesae du gang royal des Scythes, As a speci- 
men of eouleur locals, 1 may mention that Thoas in this play has a capitaifie des 
gardes and two minisUres d'iiai, with an cmbassadewr 8a/rmaU resident at his court. 



[Book v. 


pf the announcement in Euripides is powerful, in Ooethe it 

In the second act Orestes and Pylades appear. The scene between 
them is very undramatic, but beautiful as a poetic exposition of their 
mental conditions. Orestes feels — 

It is the path of death that now we tread« 
At eveiy step my soul grows more serene. 

But Pylades clings to life, and to his purpose. " Am I not," he 

says — 

As ever fbll of oourage and of joy ? 

And love and courage are the spirit's wings 

Wafting to noble actions. 
Orettes, Noble actions P 

Time was when fimcy painted such before nal 

When ofb« the game pursuing, on we roam'd 

O'er hill and valley : hoping that ere long. 

With club and weapon arm'd, we so might chase 

The track of robber or of monster huge. 

And then at twilight, by the glassy sea, 

We peaceful sat reclined against each other ; 

The waves came dancing to our veiy feet. 

And all before us lay the wide, wide world. 

Then on a sudden one would seize his sword. 

And future deeds shone round us like the stars 

Which gemm'd in countless throngs the vault of night. 
Pylades. Endless, my friend, the projects which the soul 

Bums to acoomplish. We would eveay deed 

Perform at once as grrandly as it shows 

After long ages, when from land to land 

The poet's swelling song hath rolled it on. 

It sounds so lovely what our fathers did. 

When in the silent evening shade reclined. 

We drink it in with music's melting tones. 

And what we do, is as it was to them 

Toilsome and incomplete. 

Pylades fails to inspire him, however, with the resolution which he 
feels, and with belief in the probabiHty of their escape from the 
shameful death, which Orestes accepts so calmly. Pylades has heard 
from the guards the character of Iphigenia ; and congratulates him- 

* Compare Eubip. v. 264, sq. There is one touch in the peasant's narrative 
which is very significant of that period when sods walked the earth so fiftmiliariy 
with man that eveiy stranger might be taken lor a god : 

imaUia Suro-ofrf tTSc ris vtofias 

itcpotai liaKr6Koun iropBu^imv {x*'«t, 
^A»|ff 8* ohx Sport * taitMPds riytt 
$6ffaouai¥ oY8f. 

" There one of our cowboys espied the two youths, and stepping backwards on the 
points of his toes, retraced his steps, saying, ' Do you not see them ? they are g^ods 
seated there.' " 

1779.] IPHIGEyiA. 269 

self on the fact that it is a woman who holds their fates in her hands^ 
for even the best of men 

With horror may fiaxailiarise his mind ; 
Through oastam so transform his character^ 
That he at length shall make himaftlf a law 
- Of what his very soul at first abhorred. 

On some not very intelligible pretext he makes Orestes withdraw, 
that he may have an interview with Iphigenia; and as she ap- 
proaches, unbinds his chains, and speaks, he adroitly bursts forth 
into these words : 

Delicious musio ! dearly welcome tones 
Of our own language in a foreign land I 
With joy my captive eye once more beholds 
The azure mountains of my native coast.* 

He then tells her a story something like the real one, but disguising 
names : the 'purpose of which I do not detect. She inquires after 
her family, and hears the «tory of her mother's guilt. Noting her 
agitation, he askst if she be connected with that family by friendt 
ship. She sternly replies : 

Say on : and tell me how the deed was done. 

He tells her. All she says is a few brief words, which are terribly 
significant: when he concludes, she veils herself, and withdraws, 

Enough. Thou soon wilt see me once again. 

and the act ends in this very evasive manner. The third act opens 
with the visit of Iphigenia to Orestes, in which she requests him to 
finish the story that Pylades had already half told ; and he does so 
at some length. Disdaining the guife which had prompted Pylades 
to conceal their names, he boldly says : 

lam Orestes! 

Here is a proper ava/yvtopun^, — ^and naturally, no less than dramati- 
cally, it demands a ciy from the heart of Iphigenia, who should at 
once fling herself into her brothei^s arms, and confess their relation- 
ship. Instead of this, she suffers him to continue talking, and to 
witiidraw ; she only reveals herself in the next scene I This is more 

* M. Patih hasj I think, mistaken the import of this speech : comparing it with 
the simple exclamation of Philodetes, he says, ''Philod^te n'en savait pas tant, il 
n'^tait pas si habile k se rendre oompte de see secrets mouvements : tout ce qa'il 
poHTait ^tait de s*6crier, ' O douce parole !' " Etudes sur Us Tr^^giques Qrees, in, p. 
823. But pylades is not expressing his sentiments. His ear is not iiTifatniiini. with 
the accents of his own language — he has just before heard them from Orestes ; but 
by picturing Qreece to her, he adroitly excites her sympathy for himself, a Qreek, 


like the dramatic treatment we find in jnTenile writers^ than what is 
expected from a great poet. Orestes has a return of his madness. 
He recovers from it, to feel himself purified by his sister's purity ; 
and Pylades now suggests that they shall bear away the image, and 
depart together. 

It is evident that the tragic situation in this story is the slaughter 
of a brother by a sister ignorant of a relationship perfectly known 
to the audience. So &r from having developed the tragedy of such 
a situation, Goethe has scarcely touched upon it, and never once 
awakened our fears : from first to last we are in no suspense, our 
emotions are untouched, our curiosity alone is excited to watch the 
process by which the terrible fate will be escaped. In Euripides, on 
the contrary, everything conspires to increase the terror of the 
situation. Iphigenia, formerly so mild that she wept with her 
victims, now rages like a lioness bereaved of her cubs. She has 
dreamed that Orestes is dead, and in her desolate condition resolves 
to wreak her woe on others. Her brother and his friend are brought 
before her. She questions them as to their names. Orestes refuses 
to tell her. In a rapid interchange of questions and answers she 
learns the story of her family ; and then offers to save one of their 
lives, on condition that the pardoned carry for her a letter to Argos. 
Here a contest of generosity ensues, as to who shall accept his life. 
Pylades is at length prevailed upon. The discovery is thus ma- 
naged : Pylades, bound by his oath to deliver the letter, suggests 
this difficulty, vi2S., that should the boat be upset, or should the letter 
be lost, how then can he fulfil his promise f Hereupon, to anticipate 
such an accident, Iphigenia tells him the contents of the letter ; and 
in telling him reveals her nam^. This produces the natural cry from 
Orestes, who avows himself, and clasps her in his arms. The dra- 
matic movement of this scene is admirable. From this point the 
interest slackens in Euripides, in G-oethe it deepens. In the Greek 
play it is the culmination of passionate interest ; for altiiough the 
stratagem by which Iphigenia contrives to bear away the sacred 
image would flatter the propensities of the cunning Athenian audi- 
ence,* it must have been, even to them, a delight altogether of a 

* Oomp. EuBiPiDBS, y. 1167, sq. Iphigenia pretends that as the image of the 
goddess has been stained by the impore hands of the two captives, it must be puri- 
fied, and for this purpose she intends to cleanse it in the sea, but that must be done 
in solitude. She then bids Thoas command that every citisen shall remain within 
doors, carefuUy avoiding a sight of that which may pollute them — fivaaph y^ yA 
roM 4cri : — ^nay more, with an ingenuity which is almost £Eurcical, she bids Thoas 
himself remain within the Temple, throwing a veil over his eyes ss the captives 
issue forth, and he is not to consider it at aU singular if she is a long while absent. 
In this way she contrives to escape with the image, having made fools of Thoas and 
his guards. 

1779.] IPHIQESIA. 271 

lower Idnd^ addressing lower factdties, than those addressed by the 
tragic processional grandeur of the earlier portions ; whereas in the 
German plaj^ the hitherto feeble passionate interest now rises in an 
ascending scale of high moral interest^ so that the tragedy evolved 
addresses the conscience rather than the emotions, being less the 
conflict of passions, than the high conflict with duty. 

In the fourth act Iphigenia has to save more than her brother's 
life ; she has to save him from the Furies ; this is only to be done 
by deceit, inasmuch as force is impossible under i^e circumstances. 
To a Greek mind nothing could be more satisfactory. The Greek 
preferred deceit to force ; but the Christianised conscience revolts 
from deceit as cowardly and deeply immoral. Accordingly Iphigenia 
shudders at the falsehood which is forced upon her, and only re- 
quires to be reminded by the king's messenger of the constant kind- 
ness and considerateness with which Thoas has treated her, to make 
her pause. When, therefore, Pylades arrives, urging her to flight, 
she communicates to him her scruples. 

PylculM . Him thoa dost fly who would have slain thy brother. 

Iphig, To me at least he hath been ever kind. 

Pylodtfi . What fiite commands is not ingratitude. 

Ifhig. Alas ! it still remains ingratitude, — 

Keoeesity alone can justify it. 

Pyladtfi . Thee before gods and men it justifies. 

Iphig. Bui my own heart U bHU uruati^fied, 

Pyladei. Scruples too rigid are a doak for pride. 

^hig. I cannot argue, I can only feel. 

How modem all this is I Pylades with more worldly views says : 

Life teaches us 
To be less strict with others than ourseLyes ; 
Thou 'It learn the lesson too. So wonderful * 

Is human nature, and its varied ties 
Are so involved and complicate, that none 
May hope to keep his inmost spirit pure. 
And walk without perplexity thro' life. 

Here, then, lies the tragedy. Will this soul belie its own high 
instincts, even for the sake of saving her brother ? The alternative 
is horrible ; and after pourtraying the temptation in all its force, and 
human frailty in all its tenderness, the poet shows us human gran- 
deur in this fine burst from the unhappy priestess : 

Attend, O king I 
A secret plot is laid ; 'tis vain to ask 
Touching the captives ; they are gone, and seek 
Their comrades, who await them on the shore. 
The eldest— rhe whom madness lately seized. 
And who is now recovered— is Orestes, 



M7 brother ! and the other, F^lades, 

His early friend and faithM confidant. 

From Delphi, Phoebus sent them to this shore. 

With a divine command to steal away 

The image of Diana, and to him 

Bear back the sister, promising for this 

Kedemption to the blood-stained matricide, 

t have delivered now into thy hands 

The remnants of the house of Tantalus : 

Destroy us — ^if thou darest I 

For anything like this we seek in vain throughout the Greek. 
Iphigenia ; and the mere grandeur of the conception would produce 
an overpowering eflTect on the stage, if delivered with adequate depth 
and dignity. 

Had Thoas been represented as a fierce Scythian, or even had he 
not been hitherto allowed to convince us of his generosity, the '' col- 
lision*' would have been stronger ; as it is, we have little faith in his 
ferocity. He has nearly relented when Orestes rushes in with drawn 
sword to hasten Iphigenia away, because their design has been dis- 
covered. A scene ensues in which Thoas is resolved not to suffer 
the Image of Diana to be borne away ; and as to carry it away is the 
object of Orestes, it must be decided by force of arms. But now a 
light suddenly breaks in upon Orestes, who reads the oracle in 
another way. Apollo said — 

" Back to Greece the sister bring. 

Who in the sanctuary on Tauris* shore 

Unwillingly abides ; so ends the curse." 

To Phoebus' sister we applied the words. 

And he referred to thee. 

It was Iphigenia who was to purify him, and to bear her away is to 
fulfil Apollo's orders. This interpretation loosens the knot. Iphi- 
genia recalls to Thoas his promise that she should depart if ever she 
could return in safety to her kindred, and he reluctantly says, " Then 
go !" to which she answers—^ 

Not so, my king ; I cannot part 
Without thy blessing, or in anger from thee. 
Banish us not ! the sacred right of guests 
Still let us daim : so not eternally 
Shall we be severed. Honour'd and belov'd. 
As my own father was, art thou by me : 
Farewell ! Oh ! do not turn away, but give 
One kindly word of parting in return* 
So shall the wind more gently swell our sails. 
And from our eyes with softened anguish flow 
The tears of separation. Fare thee well ! 
And graciously extend to me thy hand 
In pledge of ancient friendship. 
Tho<u (extending hie hand). Fare thee well. 

1779.] IPHIGENIA. 273 

This is a very touching, noble close, and is in exquisite harmony 
with the whole. 

The remarks on this masterpiece have already occupied so much 
space that I could not, were I disposed, pause to examine the ycurious 
collateral points of criticism which have been raised in Germany. I 
will merely allude to the characteristic difference between Ancient 
and Modem Art exhibited in the treatment of the Furies, which in 
Euripides are terrible Apparitions, real beings personated by actors ; 
in Goethe they are Phantasms moving across the stage of an un- 
happy soul, but visible only to the inward eye ; in like manner the 
Greek denouement is the work of the actual interference of the 
Goddess in person, whereas the German denouement is a loosening 
of the knot by deeper insight into the meaning of the oracle. 




In the beginning of 1779 we find Goethe very active in his new oflS- 
cial duties. He has accepted the direction of the War Department, 
which suddenly assumes new importance, owing to the preparations 
for a war. He is constantly riding about the country, and Hoing his 
utmost to alleviate the condition of the people. " Misery,'^ he says, 
'^becomes as prosaic and familiar to me as my own hearth, but 
nevertheless I do not let go my idea, and will wrestle with the un- 
known Angel, even should I halt upon my thigh. No man knows 
what I do, and with how many foes I fight to bring forth a little.'' 

Among his undertakings may be noted an organisation of Fire- 
men, then greatly wanted. Fires were not only numerous, but were 
rendered terrible by the want of any systematic service to subdue 
them. Goethe, who in Frankfurt had rushed into the bewildered 
crowd, and astonished spectators by his rapid peremptory disposition 
of their eflfbrts into a system — ^who in Apolda and Ettersburg lent 
aid and command, till his eyebrows were singed and his feet were 
burped — naturally took it much to heart that no regular service was 
supphed ; and he persuaded the Duke to institute one. 

On this (his thirtieth) birthday the Duke, recognising his official 
services, raised him to the place of Gehebnrath. '^ It is strange and 
dreamlike,'' writes the Frankfurt burgher in his new-made honour, 
'' that I in my thirtieth year enter the highest place which a German 
citizen can reach. On ne va jamais jdu-*^ loin que quand on ne salt 
oil Von va, said a great climber of this world." If he thought it 
strange, Weimar thought it scandalous. " The hatred of people 
here," writes Wieland, '^ against our Goethe, who has done no one 
any harm, has grown to such a pitch since he has been made Geheim- 
rath, that it borders on fury." But the Duke, if he heard these 
howls, paid no attention to them. He was more than ever with his 
•friend. They started on the 12th of September on a little journey 
into Switzerland, in the strictest incognito, and with the lightest of 
travelling trunks. They touched at Frankfurt, and stayed in the old 

1779.] PROGRESS. 275 

house in the Hirschgrahen, where Bath Goethe had the p^de of re- 
ceiving not only his son as Geheimrath^ but the Prince, his friend 
and master. Goethe's mother was, as may be imagined, in high 
spirits — motherly pride and housewifely pride being equally stimu- 
lated by the presence of such guests. 

From Frankfurt they went to Strasburg. There the recollection 
of Frederika irresistibly drew him to Sesenheim. In his letter to 
the Frau von Stein he says : '' On the 25th I rode towards Sesen- 
heim, and there found the family as I had left it eight years ago. I 
was welcomed in the most firiendly manner. The second daughter 
loved me in those days better than I deserved, and more than others 
to whom I have given so much passion and faith. I was forced to 
leave her at a moment when it nearly cost her her life ; she passed 
lightly over that episode to tell me what traces still remained of the 
old illness, and behaved with such exquisite delicacy and generosity 
from the moment that I stood before her unexpected on the threshold, 
that I felt quite relieved. I must do her the justice to say that she 
made not the slightest attempt to rekindle in my bosom the cinders 
of love. She led me into the arbour, and there we sat down. It 
was a lovely moonlight, and I inquired after every one and every- 
thing. Neighbours had spoken of me not a week ago. I found old 
songs which I had composed, and a carriage I had painted. We re- 
called many a pastime of those happy days, and I found myself as 
vividly conscious of all, as if I had been away only six months. The 
old people were &ank and hearty, and thought me looking younger. 
I stayed the night there, and departed at dawn, leaving behind 
me friendly faces; so that I can now think once more of this comer 
of the world with comfort, and know that they are at peace 
with me.'' 

There is something very touching in this interview, and in his 
narrative of it, forwarded to the woman he now loves, and who does 
not repay him with a love like that which he believes he has inspired 
in Frederika. He finds this charming girl still unmarried, and pro- 
bably is not a little flattered at the thought that she still cherishes 
his image to the exclusion of every other. She tells him of Lenz 
having fallen in love with her, and is silent respecting her own 
share in that little episode ; a silence which all can understand and 
few will judge harshly ; the more so as her feelings towards Lenz 
were at that time doubtless far from tender. Besides, apart from 
the romance of meeting with an old lover, there was the pride and 
charm of thinking what a world-renowned name hery^lover had 
achieved. It was no slight thing even to have been jilteaJby such a 




man ; and she must have felt that he had not behaved to her other- 
wise than was to have been expected under the circumstances. 

On the 26th Goethe rejoined his party, and '' in the afternoon I 
called on Lili, and found the lovely Grasaffen^ with a baby of seven 
weeks old, her mother standing by. There also I was received with 
admiration and pleasure. I made many inquiries, and to my great 
delight found the good creature happily married. Her husband, 
from what I could learn, seems a worthy, sensible fellow, rich, well 
placed in the world ; in short, she has everything she needs. He 
was absent. I stayed dinner. After dinner went with the Duke to 
see the Cathedral, and in the evening saw Paesiello's beautiful opera, 
I/Infante di Zamora. Supped with Lili, and went away in the 
moonlight. The sweet emotions which accompanied me I cannot 

We may read in these two descriptions the difference of the two 
women, and the difference of his feeling for them. From Stras- 
burg he went to Emmendingen, and there visited his sister's grave. 
Accompanied by such thoughts as these three visits must have 
called up, he entered Switzerland. His Briefe cms der Schweitz, 
mainly composed from the letters to the Frau von Stein, will inform 
the curious reader of the effect these scenes produced on him ; we 
cannot pause here in the narrative to quote from them. Enough if 
we mention that in Zurich he spent happy hours with Lavater, in 
communication of ideas and feelings ; and that on his way home he 
composed the little opera of Jery und Bdtely, full of Swiss inspira- 
tion. In Stuttgart the Duke took it into his head to visit the Court, 
and as no presentable costume was ready, tailors had to be set in 
activity to furnish the tourists with the necessary clothes. They 
assisted at the New Year festivities of the Military Academy, and 
here for the first time Schiller, then twenty years of age, with the 
Robbers in his head, saw the author of Gotz and Wertlier. 

It is probable that among all the figures thronging in the hall and 
galleries on that imposing occasion, none excited in the young am- 
bitious student so thrilling an effect as that of the great poet, then 
in all the splendour of manhood, in all the lustre of an immense 
renown. Why has no artist chosen this for an historical picture ? 
The pale, sickly young Schiller, in the stiff military costume of that 
day, with pigtail and papillotes, with a sword by his side, and a 
three-cornered hat under his arm, stepping forward to kiss the coat 
of his sovereign Duko, in grateful acknowledgment of the three 

• Orcuaffen, i. e., " green monkey/* is Frankfurt slang for *• budding miss," and 
ailudes to the old days when he knew Lili. 

1779.] PROGRESS. 277 

prizes awarded to him for Medicine, Surgery, and Clinical science ; 
conscious that Goethe was looking on, and could know nothing of 
the genius which had gained, indeed, trivial medical prizes, but had 
failed to gain a prize for German composition. This pale youth and 
this splendid man were in a few years to become noble rivals, and 
immortal friends ; to strive with generous emulation, and the most 
genuine deUght in each other's prowess ; presenting such an exem- 
plar of literary friendship as the world has seldom seen. At this 
moment, although Schiller's eyes were intensely curious about 
Goethe, he was to the older poet nothing beyond a rather promising 
medical student. 

Eiarl August on their return to Frankftirt again took up his abode 
in the Goethe family, paying liberal attention to Prau Aja's good 
old Ehine wine, and privately sending her a sum of money to com- 
pensate for the unusual expenses of his visit. By the 13th January 
he was in Weimar once more, having spent nearly nine thousand 
dollars on the journey, including purchases of works of art. 

Both were considerably altered to their advantage. In his Diary 
Goethe writes : '' I feel daily that I gain more and more the confi- 
dence of people ; and God grant that I may deserve it, not in the 
easy way, but in the way I wish. What I endure from myself and 
others no one sees. The best is the deep stillness in which I live 
viS'd'Vis to the world, and thus win what fire and sword cannot rob 
me of.'' He was crystallising slowly ; slowly gaining the complete 
conmxand over himself. " I will be lord over myself. No one who 
cannot master himself is worthy to rule, and only he can rule." But 
with such a temperament this mastery was not easy; wine and 
women's tears, he felt, were among his weaknesses : 

Ich kCxmte viel gliicklicher seyn, 
G^b's nur keinen Wein 
Und keine Weiberthranen. 

He could not entirely free himself from either. He was a Ehine- 
lander, accustomed from boyhood upwards to the stimulus of wine ; 
he was a poet, never free from the fascinations of woman. But just 
as he was never known to lose his head with wine, so also did he 
never lose himself entirely to a woman : the stimulus never grew into 

One sees that his passion for the Frau von Stein continues ; but 
it is cooling. It was necessary for him to love some one, but he 
was loving here in vain, and he begins to settle into a cahner afiec* 
tion. He is also at this time thrown more and more with Corona 
Schroter ; and his participation in the private theatricals is not o^y 



an agreeable relaxation from the heavy pressure of official duties, 
but is giving him materials for Wilhelm M&ister, now in progress. 
" Theatricals," he says, " remain among the few things in which I 
still have the pleasure of a child and an artist." Herder, who had 
hitherto held somewhat aloof, now draws closer and closer to him, 
probably on account of the change which is coming over his way of 
life. -Ajid this intimacy with Herder awakens in him the desire to 
see Lessing; the projected journey to Wolfenbiittel is arrested, 
however, by the ^ad news which now arrives that the great gladiator 
is at peace : Lessing is dead. 

Not without significance is the fact that, coincident with this 
change in Goethe's life, comes the passionate study of science, a 
study often before taken up in desultory impatience, but now com- 
mencing with that seriousness which is to project it as an active 
tendency through the remainder of his life. In an unpublished 
" Essay on Granite", written about this period, he says : '' No one 
acquainted with the charm which the secrets of Nature have for man, 
will wonder that I have quitted the circle of observations in which I 
have hitherto been confined, and have thrown myself with passionate 
delight into this new circle. I stand in no fear of the reproach that 
it must be a spirit of contradiction which has drawn me from the 
contemplation and portraiture of the human heart to that of Nature. 
For it will be allowed that all things are intimately connected, and 
that the inquiring mind is unwilling to be excluded from anything 
attainable. And I who have known and sufifered from the perpetual 
agitation of feelings and opinions in myself and in others, delight in 
the sublime repose which is produced by contact with the great and 
eloquent silence of Nature." He was trying to find a secure basis 
for his aims ; it was natural he should seek a secure basis for his 
mind ; and with such a mind that basis could only be found in the 
study of Nature. If it is true, as men of science sometimes declare 
with a sneer, that Goethe was a poet in science (which does not in 
the least disprove the fact that he was great in science, and made 
great discoveries), it is equally true that he was a scientific poet. 
In a future chapter we shall have to consider what his position in 
science truly is ; for the present we merely indicate the course of his 
studies. BuflFon's wonderful book. Lea Epoques de la Nature — ren- 
dered antiquated now by the progress of geology, but still attractive 
in its style and noble thoughts — ^produced a profound impression on 
him. In Buffon, as in Spinoza, and later on, in GeoSroy St. Hilaire, 
he found a mode of looking at Nature which thoroughly coincided 
with his own, gathering many details into a poetic synthesis. Sans- 

1779.] PROGRESS. .:_ ( 279, 

sure, whom he had seen at Geneva, led him to study mineralogy; 
and as his official duties gave him many occasions to mingle with 
the miners, this study acquired a practical interest, which soon grew 
into a passion — much to the disgust of Herder, who, with the im- 
patience of one who thought books the chief objects of interest, was 
constantly mocking him for '' bothering himself about stones and 
cabbages'^. To these studies must be added anatomy^ and in par- 
ticular osteology, which in early years had also attracted him, when 
he attained knowledge enough to draw the heads of animals for 
Lavater's Phymognonny. He now goes to Jena to study under Loder, 
professor of anatomy •* For these studies his talent, or want of 
talent, as a draughtsman, had further to be cultivated. To improve 
himself he lectures to the young men every week on the skeleton. 
And thus, amid serious duties and many distractions in the shape of 
court festivities, balls, masquerades, and theatricals, he found time 
for the prosecution of many and various studies. He was like 
Napoleon, a giant-worker, and never so happy as when at work. 

Tasso was conceived, and commenced (in prose) at this time, and 
WUhelm Meister grew under his hands, besides smaller works. But 
nothing was published. He lived for himself, and the small circle 
of friends. The public was never thought of. Indeed the public 
was then jubilant at beerhouses, and scandalised in salons, at the 
appearance of the Robbers / and a certain Kiittner, in publishing his 
Characters of German Poets and Prose Writers (1781) could com- 
placently declare that the shouts of praise which intoxicated admirers 
had once raised for Goethe were now no longer heard. Meanwhile 
Egmont was in progress, and assuming a far different tone from that 
in which it was originated. 

It is unnecessary to follow closely all the details, which letters 
abundantly furnish, of his life at this period. They will not help us 
to a nearer understanding of the man, and they would occupy much 
space. What we observe in them all is, a slow advance to a more 
serious and decisive plan of existence. On the 27th of May his 
father dies. On the 1st of June he comes to live in the town of 
Weimar, as more consonant with his position and avocations. The 
Duchess Amalia has promised to give him a part of the necessary 
furniture. He quits his Qartenhaus with regret, but makes it still 
his retreat for happy hours. Shortly afterwards the Duchess Amalia 
demonstrates to him at great length the necessity of his being en- 
nobled j the Duke, according to Diintzer, not having dared to break 
the subject to him. In fact, since he had been for six years at 
• Comp. Brief, zwischen Karl August und Ooethe, i, 25, 26. 



oonrt withont a patent of nobility^ he may perhaps have felt the 
''necessity'^ as somewhat insulting. Nevertheless^ I cannot but 
think that the Frankfurt citizen soon became reconciled to the von 
before his name; the more so as he was never remarkable for a 
contempt of worldly rank. Immediately afterwards the President of 
the Kammer^ von Kalb^ was suddenly dismissed from his post^ and 
Goethe was the substitute^ at first merely occupying the post ad 
intervm ; but not relinquishing his place in the Privy Council. 

More important to us is the relation in which he stands to Karl 
August^ and the Frau von Stein. Whoever reads with proper atten- 
tion the letters published in the Stein correspondence will become 
aware of a notable change in their relation about this time (1781-2). 
The toue^ which had grown calmer^ now rises again into passionate 
fervour, and every note reveals the happy lover. From the absence 
of her letters, and other evidence, it is impossible to assign the 
cause of this change with any certainty. It may have been that 
Corona Schroter made her jealous. It may have been that she 
feared to lose him. One is inclined to suspect her of some question- 
able motive, because it is clear that her conduct to him was not 
straightforward in the beginning, and, as we shaU see, became 
ungenerous towards the close. Whatever the motive, the fact is 
indubitable. In his letters may be plainly seen the extraordinary 
fascination she exercised over him, the deep and constant devotion 
he gave her, the thorough identification of her with all his thoughts 
and aims. A sentence or two must suflSce here. '^0 thou best 
beloved ! I have had all my life an ideal wish of how I would be 
loved, and have sought in vain its realisation in vanishing dreams ; 
and now, when the world daily becomes clearer to me, I find this 
realisation in thee, and in a way which can never be lost.'' Again. 
'' Dearest, what do I not owe thee ! If thou didst not also love 
me so entirely, if thou only hadst me as a friend among others, I 
should still be bound to dedicate my whole existence to thee. For 
could I ever have renounced my errors without thy aid? When 
could I have looked so clearly at the world, and found myself so 
happy in it, before this time when I have nothing more to seek in 
it V And this : '' As a sweet melody raises us to heaven, so is to 
me thy being and thy love. I move among friends and acquaintances 
everywhere as if seeking thee ; I find thee not, and return into my 

While he was thus happy, thus settling down into clearness, the 
young Duke, not yet having worked through the turbulence of youth, 
was often in discord with him. In the published correspondence 
may be read confirmation of what I have elsewhere learned, namely. 

1779.] PROGRESS. 281 

that althongh during their first years of intimacy the poet stood on 
no etiquette in private with his sovereign^ and ^though to the last 
Karl August continued the brotherly thou, and the most aflTectionate 
familiarity of address, yet Goethe soon began to perceive that another 
tone was called for on his part. His letters become singularly formal 
as he grows older; at times almost unpleasantly so. The Duke 
writes to him as to a friend, and he replies as to a sovereign. 

Not that his affection diminished ; but as he grew more serious, 
he grew more attentive to decorum. For the Duchess he seems to 
have had a tender admiration, something of which may be read in 
Tasso, Her noble, dignified, though somewhat inexpressive nature, 
the greatness of her heart, and delicficy of her mind, would all the 
more have touched him, because he knew and could sympathise with 
what was not perfectly happy in her life. He was often the pained 
witness of Httle domestic disagreements, and had to remonstrate 
with the Duke on his occasional roughness. 

From the letters to the Frau von Stein we gather that Goethe was 
gradually becoming impatient with Karl August, whose excellent 
qualities he cherishes while deploring his extravagances. '' Enthu- 
siastic as he is for what is good and right, he has, notwithstanding, 
less pleasure in it than in what is improper ; it is wonderful how 
reasonable he can be, what insight he has, how much he knows ; 
and yet when he sets about anything good, he must needs begin 
with something foolish. Unhappily, one sees it lies deep in his 
nature, and that the frog is made for the water even when he has 
lived some time on land.^' In the following we see that the " ser- 
vile courtier'' not only remonstrates with the Duke, but refuses to 
accompany him on his journey, having on a previous journey been 
irritated by his manners. " Here is an epistle. If you think right, 
send it to the Duke, speak to him and do not spare him. I only 
want quiet for myself, and for him to know with whom he has to do. 
You can tell him also that I have declared to you I will never travel 
with him again. Do this in your own prudent gentle way." Accord- 
ingly he lets the Duke go away alone : but they seem to have come 
to some understanding subsequently, and the threat was not fulfilled. 
Two months after, this sentence informs us of the reconciliation : 
" I have had a long and serious conversation with the Duke. In 
this world, my best one, the dramatic writer has a rich harvest ; and 
the wise say. Judge no man until you have stood in his place.'' 
Later on we find him complaining of the Duke going wrong in his 
endeavours to do right. " God knows if he will ever learn that fire- 
works at midday produce no effect. I don't like always playing the 
pedagogue and bugbear, and from the others he asks no advice, nor 


does he ever tell them of his plans." Here is another glimpse : 
" The Duchess is as amiable as possible, the Duke is a good crea- 
ture, and one could heartily love him if he did not trouble the 
intercourse of life by his manners, and did not make his friends 
indifferent as to what befals him by his breakneck recklessness. It 
is a curious feeling, that of daily contemplating the possibility of 
our nearest friends breaking their necks, arms, or legs, and yet ^ave 
grown quite callous to the idea ! " Again : '^ The Duke goes to 
Dresden. He has begged me to go with him, or at least to follow 
him, but I shall stay here. . . . The preparations for the Dresden 
journey are quite against my taste. The Duke arranges them in his 
way, i. e., not always the best, and disgusts one after the other. I 
am quite calm, for it is not alterable, and I only rejoice that there is 
no kingdom for which such cards could be played often." 

These are little discordant tones which must have arisen as Goethe 
grew more serious. The real regard he had for the Duke is not in- 
jured by these occasional outbreaks. " The Duke," he writes, " is 
guilty of many follies which I willingly forgive, remembering my 
own." He knows that he can at any moment put his horses to the 
carriage and drive away from Weimar, and this consciousness of 
freedom makes him contented j although he now makes up his mind 
that he is destined by nature to be an author and nothing else. '' I 
have a purer delight than ever, when I have written something 
which well expresses what I meant . . . ." " I am truly bom to 
be a private man, and do not understand how fate has contrived to 
throw me into a ministry and into a princely family." As he grows 
clearer. on the true mission of his Ufe, he also grows happier. One 
can imagine the strange feelings with which he would now take up 
Wci'ther, and for the first time since ten years read this product 
of his youth. He made some alterations in it, especially in the rela- 
tion of Albert to Lotte ; and introduced the episode of the peasant 
w^ho commits suicide from jealousy. Scroll, in his notes to the 
Stein Coirespondetice,^ has called attention to a point worthy of 
notice, viz., that Herder, who helped Goethe in the revision of this 
work, had pointed out to him the very same fault in its composition 
which Napoleon two-and-twenty years later laid his finger on ; the 
fault, namely, of making Werther's suicide partly the consequence 
of frustrated ambition and partly of unrequited love — a fault which, 
in spite of Herder and Napoleon, in spite also of Goethe's acqui- 
escence, I venture to think no fault at all, as will be seen when the 
interview with Napoleon is narrated. 

Vol. Ill, p. 268. 




With the year 1783 we see him more and more seriously occupied. 
He has ceased to be '^ the Grand Master of all the Apes/^ and is 
deep in old books and archives. The birth of a crown prince came 
to fill Weimar with joy, and give the Duke a sudden seriousness. 
The baptism, which took place on the 5 th of February, was a great 
event in Weimar. Herder preached " like a God,^^ said Wieland, 
whose cantata was sung on the occasion. Processions by torchlight, 
festivities of all kinds, poems from every poet, except Goethe, testi- 
fied the people^s joy. There is something very generous in this 
silence. It could not be attributed to want of affection. But he 
who had been ever ready with ballet, opera, or poem, to honour the 
birthday of the two Duchesses, must have felt that now, when all the 
other Weimar writers were pouring in their offerings, he ought not to 
throw the weight of his position in the scale against them. Had his 
poem been the worst of the offerings, it would have been prized the 
highest because it was his. 

The Duke, proud in his paternity, writes to Merck : " You have 
reason to rejoice with me ; for if there be any good dispositions in me 
they have hitherto wanted a fixed point, but now there is a firm hook 
upon which I can hang my pictures. With the help of Goethe and 
good luck I will so paint that if possible the next generation shall say, 
he too was a painter !" «iind from this time forward there seems to 
have been a decisive change in him ; though he does complain of the 
'^ taciturnity of his Herr Kainmerprdsident" (Goethe), who is only to 
be drawn out by the present of an engraving. In truth this Kam- 
merprdsident is very much oppressed with work, and lives in great 
seclusion, happy in love, active in study. The oflScial duties which 
formerly he undertook so gaily, are obviously becoming burdens to 
him, the more so now his mission rises into greater distinctness. The 
old desire foi* Italy begins to torment him. " The happiest thing is, 
that I can now say I am on the right path, and from this time for- 
. ward nothing will be lost.'^ 


In his poein Ilmenau, written in this year, G-oethe vividly depicts 
the character of the Duke, and the certainty of his metamorphosis. 
Having seen how he speaks of the Duke in his letters to the Fran 
von Stein, it will gratify the reader to observe that these criticisms 
were no " behind the back'* carpings, but were explicitly expressed 
even in poetry. '' The poem of Ilmenau,*' Goethe said to Ecker- 
mann, " contains in the form of an episode an epoch which in 1 783 
when I wrote it, had happened some years before ; so that I could 
describe myself historically and hold a conversation with myself of 
former years. There occurs in it a night scene after one of the 
breakneck chases in the mountain. We had built ourselves at the 
foot of a rock some little huts, and covered them with fir branches, 
that we might pass the night on dry ground. Before the huts we 
burned several fires and cooked our game. Knebel, whose pipe was 
never cold, sat next to the fire, and enlivened the company with his 
jokes, while the wine passed freely. Seckendorf had stretched him- 
self against a tree and was humming all sorts of poetics. On one 
side lay the Duke in deep slumber. I myself sat before him in the 
glimmering light of the coals, absorbed in various grave thoughts, 
sufiering for the mischief which my writings had produced.^' The 
sketch of the Duke is somewhat thus to be translated : '' Who can 
tell the caterpillar creeping on the branch, of what its future food 
will be ? Who can help the grub upon the earth to burst its shell ? 
The time comes when it presses out and hurries winged into the 
bosom of the rose. Thus will the years bring him also the right 
direction of his strength. As yet, beside the deep desire for the 
True, he has a passion for Error. Temerity lures him too far, no rock 
is too steep, no path too narrow, peril lies at his side threatening. 
Then the wild unruly impulse hurries him to and fro, and from rest- 
less activity, he restlessly tries repose. Gloomily wild in happy 
days, free without being happy, he sleeps, fatigued in body and soul, 
upon a rocky couch.^' 

While we are at Ilmenau let us not forget the exquisite little 
poems written there this September, with a pencil, on the wall of 
that hut on the Gickelhahn, which is still shown to visitors : 

Ueber alien Gtipfeln 

Ist Boh, 

In alien Wipfeln 

Spiireat du 

Kaum einen Hauch ; 

Die Vftgelein schweigcn in Walde ; 

Warte nnr, balde 

Boliest du auch. 


He had many unpleasant houra as ControDer of the Finances, 
striving in vain to make the Duke keep within a prescribed definite 
sum for expenses; a thing always found next to impossible with 
Princes (not often possible with private men), and by no means 
accordant with our Duke's temperament, ''Goethe contrives to 
make the most sensible representations,'' Wieland writes to Merck, 
'' and is indeed VhonnSte homme d la cour ; but suffers terribly in 
body and soul from the burdens which for our good he has taken on 
himself. It sometimes pains me to the heart to see how good a face 
he puts on while sorrow like an inward worm is silently gnawing him. 
He takes care of his health as well as he can, and indeed he has 
need of it.'' Reports of this seem to have reached the ear of his 
mother, and thus he endeavours to reassure her : " You have never 
known me strong in stomach and head ; and that one must be serious 
with serious matters is in the nature of things, especially when one 
is thoughtful and desires the good and true. ... I am, after my 
manner, tolerably well, am able to do all my work, to enjoy the inter- 
course of good friends, and still find time enough for all my favourite 
pursuits. I could not wish myself in a better place, now that I know 
the world and know how it looks behind the mouiitains. And you, 
on your side, content yourself with my existence, and should I quit 
the world before you, I have not lived to your shame ; I leave behind 
me a good name and good friends, and thus you will have the conso- 
lation of knowing that I am not entirely dead. Meanwhile live in 
peace ; fate may yet give us a pleasant old age, which we will also 
live through gratefully." 

It is impossible not to read, beneath these assurances, a tone of 
sadness such as corresponds with Wieland's intimation. Indeed, the 
Duke, anxious about his health, had urged him in the September of 
this year to make a little journey in the Harz. He went, accom- 
panied by Fritz von Stein, the eldest son of his beloved, a boy of 
ten years of age, whom he loved and treated as a son. '' Infinite 
was the love and care he showed me," said Stein, when record- 
ing those happy days. He had him for months living under the 
same roof, taught him, played with him, formed him. His instinc- 
tive delight in children was sharpened by his love for this child's 
mother. A pretty episode in the many-coloured Weimar life, is this, 
of the care-worn minister and occupied student snatching some of 
the joys of paternity from circumstances, which had denied him 
wife and children. 

The Harz journey restored his health and spirits : especially 
agreeable to him was his intercourse with Sonmiering, the great 


anatomist, and other men of science. He returned to Weimar to 
continue WilheJm Meister, which was now in its fourth book; to 
continue his official duties ; to see more and more of Herder, then 
writing his Ideen ; and to sun himself in the smiles of his beloved. 

The year 1784 begins with an alteration in the theatrical world. 
The Amateur Theatre, which has hitherto given them so much occu- 
pation and delight, is now closed. A regular troupe is engaged. 
For the birthday of the Duchess, Groethe prepares the Planet Dance, 
a masked procession ; and prepares an oration for the Reopening of 
the Ilmenau Mines, which must greatly have pleased him as the be- 
ginning of the fulfilment of an old wish. From his first arrival he 
had occupied himself with these mines, and the possibility of their 
being once more set working. After many difficulties, on the 24th 
of February this wish was realised. It is related of him, that on the 
occasion of this opening speech, made in presence of all the influ- 
ential persons of the environs, he appeared to have well in his head 
all that he had written, for he spoke with remarkable fluency. AH 
at once the thread was lost ; he seemed to have forgotten what he 
had to say. " This,'' says the narrator, " would have thrown any 
one else into great embarrassment ; but it was not so with him. 
On the contrary, he looked for at least ten minutes steadily and 
quietly round the circle of his numerous audience ; they were so 
impressed by his personal appearance, that during the very long 
and almost ridiculous pause every one remained perfectly quiet. At 
last he appeared to have again become master of his subject ; he 
went on with his speech, and without hesitation continued it to the 
end as serenely as if nothing had happened.'' 

His osteological studies brought him this year the discovery of an 
intermaxillary bone in man, as well as in animals.* In a future 
chapter t this discovery will be placed in its historical and anato- 
mical light ; what we have at present to do with it, is to recognise 
its biographical significance. Until this discovery was made, the 
position of man had always been separated from that of even the 
highest animals, by the fact (assumed) that he had no intermaxillary 
bone. Goethe, who everywhere sought unity in Nature, believed 
that such a difference did not exist ; his researches proved him to 
be right. Herder was at that time engaged in proving that no 

• He thus announces it to Herder, 27 March, 1784, " I hasten to tell you of the 
fortune that has befaUen me. I have found neither gold nor silver, but that which 
g^ves me inexpressible joy, the o« iniermaxillare in Sian ! I compared the skuUs 
of men and beasts, in company with Loder, came on the trace of it, and see there 
it is V* — Aus Herder's Nachlass, i, 75. 

t See further on the chapter on The Poet as a Man of Science. 


Btnictural difference could be found between men and animals ; and 
Goethe, in sending Knebel his discovery, says that it will support 
this view. " Indeed, man is most intimately allied to animals. The 
coordination of the Whole makes every creature to be that which it 
is, and man is as much man through the form of his upper jaw, as 
through the form and nature of the last joint of his little toe. And 
thus is every creature but a note of the great harmony, which must 
be studied in the Whole, or else it is nothing but a dead letter. 
From this point of view I have written the little essay, and that is 
properly speaking the interest which lies hidden in it.'' 

The discovery is significant therefore as an indication of his ten- 
dency to regard Nature in her unity. It was the prelude to his dis- 
coveries of the metamorphosis of plants, and of the vertebral theory 
of the skull: all three resting on the same mode of conceiving 
Nature. His botanical studies received fresh impulse at this period. 
Linnaeus was a constant companion on his journeys, and we see him 
with eagerness availing himself of all that the observations and col- 
lections of botanists could offer him in aid of his own. '^ My geo- 
logical speculations,'' he writes to the Frau von Stein, " make 
progress. I see much more than the others who accompany me, 
because I have discovered certain fundamental laws of formation, 
which I keep secret, and can from them better observe and judge 
the phenomena before me . . . ." " Every one exclaims about my 
solitude, which is a riddle, because no one knows with what glorious 
unseen beings I hold communion." It is interesting to observe his 
dehght at seeing a zebra — which was a novelty in Germany — and 
his inexhaustible pleasure in the elephant's skull, which he has pro- 
cured for study. Men confined to their libraries, whose thoughts 
scarcely venture beyond the circle of Hterature, have spoken with 
sarcasm, and with pity, of this waste of time. But — dead bones 
for dead bones — there is as much poetry in the study of an elephant's 
skull, as in the study of those skeletons of the past — history and 
classics. All depends upon the mind of the student ; to one man 
a few old bones wiU awaken thoughts of the great organic processes 
of nature, thoughts as far-reaching and sublime as those which the 
fragments of the past awaken in the historical mind. Impressed 
with this conviction, the great Bossuet left the brilliant court of 
Louis XIV, to shut himself up in the anatomical theatre of Duvemey, 
that he might master the secrets of organisation before writing his 
treatise De la Connaissance de Uieu,* But there are minds, and 

• This work contains a little treatise on anatomy, wMch testifies the patience of 
the theologian's study. 


these form the majority, to whom dry bones are diy bones, and no- 
thing more. '^ How legible the book of Nature becomes to me,'* 
Goethe writes, '' I cannot express to thee ; my long lessons in spell- 
ing have helped me, and now my quiet joy is inexpressible. Much 
as I find that is new, I find nothing unexpected ; everything fits in, 
because I have no system, and desire nothing but the pure truth.*' 
To help him in his spelling he begins algebra ; but the nature of his 
mind was too unmathematical for him to pursue that study long. 

Science and love were the two pillars of his existence in these 
days. ^' I feel that thou art always with me,'* he writes ; '' thy pre- 
sence never leaves me. In thee I have a standard of all women, 
yea of all men ; in thy love I have a standard of fate. Not that it 
darkens the world to me, on the contrary, it makes the world clear ; 
I see plainly how men are, think, wish, strive after, and enjoy ; and 
I give everyone his due, and rejoice silently in the thought that I 
possess so indestructible a treasure." 

The Duke increased his salary by 200 thalers, and this, with the 
1,800 thalers received from the paternal property, made his income 
now 3,200 thalers. He had need of money, both for his purposes 
and his numerous charities. We have seen, in the case of Kraft, 
how large was his generosity ; and in one of his letters to his be- 
loved, he exclaims, " God grant that I may daily become more econo- 
mical, that I may be able to do more for others.*' The reader knows 
this is not a mere phrase thrown in the air. All his letters speak 
of the suffering he endured from the sight of so much want in the 
people. '^ The world is narrow,'* he writes, '^ and not every spot of 
earth bears every tree ; mankind suffers, and one is ashamed to see 
oneself so favoured above so many thousands. We hear constantly 
how poor the land is, and daily becomes poorer ; but we partly think 
this is not true, and partly hurry it away from our minds when once 
we see the truth with open eyes, see the irremediableness, and see 
how matters are always bungled and botched !** That he did his 
utmost to ameliorate the condition of the people in general, and to 
ameliorate particular sorrows as far as lay in his power, is strikingly 
evident in the concurrent testimony of all who knew anything of 
his doings. If he did not write dithyrambs of Freedom, and was 
not profoundly enthusiastic for Fatherland, let us attribute it to any 
cause but want of heart. 

The stillness and earnestness of his life seem to have somewhat 
toned down the society of Weimar. He went very rarely to Court ; 
and he not being there to animate it with his inventions, the Duchess 
Amalia complained that they were all asleep ; the Duke also found 


society insipid : '^ the men have lived through their youth, and the 
women mostly married/' The Duke altered with the rest. The in- 
fluence of his dear friend was daily turning him into more resolute 
paths ; it had even led him to the study of science, as we learn from 
his letters. And Herder, also, now occupied with his great work, 
shared these ideas, and enriched himself with Goethe's friendship. 
Jacobi came to Weimar, and saw his old friend again, quitting him 
with real sorrow. He was occupied at this time with the dispute 
about Lessing's Spinozism, and tried to bring Goethe into it, who 
very characteristically told him, ^' Before I write a syllable /Aera ra 
^vfTiKa^ I must first have clearly settled my ^vaixa." All contro- 
versy was repugnant to Goethe's nature : he said, '' If Raphael were 
to paint it, and Shakspeare dramatise it, I could scarcely find 
any pleasure in it." Jacobi certainly was not the writer to conquer 
such repugnance. Goethe objected to his tone ahnost as much as 
to his opinions. " When self-esteem expresses itself in contempt 
of another, be he the meanest, it must be repellant. A flippant, 
frivolous man may ridicule others, may controvert them, scorn them ; 
but he who has any respect for himself seems to have renounced the 
right of thinking meanly of others. And what are we all that we can 
dare to raise ourselves to any height ?" He looks ijpon Jacobi's meta- 
physical tic as a compensation for all the goods the gods have given him. 
" House, riches, children, sister and friends, and a long etc., etc., etc. 
On the other hand, God has punished you with metaphysics like a 
thorn in your flesh ; me he has blessed with science, that I may be 
happy in the contemplation of his works." How characteristic is 
this : ''When you say we can only believe in God (p. 101), I answer 
that I lay g^at stress on seeing {schauen), and when Spinoza, speak- 
ing of scientia ini/uitivaj says : Hoc cognoscendi genus procedit ah 
adequata idea essentia^ formalis quorundam Dei attrihtdomm ad ad^ 
equatami cognitionem essentia^ rerum, these few words give me courage 
to dedicate my whole life to the observation of things which I can 
reach, and of whose essenUce formalis I can hope to form an adequate 
idea, without in the least troubling myself how far I can go." He 
was at variance, and justly, with those who called Spinoza an atheist. 
He called him the most theistical of theists, and the most Christian, 
of Christians — theissinmm et christiamssimum. 

While feeling the separation of opinion between himself and Ja- 
cobi, he still felt the sympathy of old friendship. It was otherwise 
with Lavater. Their intimacy had been great ; no amount of differ- 
ence had overshadowed it, until the priestly element of Lavater, 
formerly in abeyance, grew into offensive prominence. He clouded 



his intellect with superstitions, and aspired to be a prophet. He 
had believed in Cagliostro and his miracles, exclaiming, *'Who 
would be so great as he, had he but a true sense of the Evangelists V* 
He called upon that mystifier, in Strasburg, but was at once sent 
about his business. '' When a great man,'' writes Goethe of La- 
vater, in 1 782, '^ has a dark comer in him, it is terribly dark/' And 
the dark comer in Lavater begins to make him uneasy.' " I see the 
highest power of reason united in Lavater with the most odious 
superstition, and that by a knot of the finest and most inextricable 
kind." To the same effect he says in one of the Xenien — 

Wie verfahrt die Natnr mn Hohes nnd Kiediee im Menschen 
Zu verbinden ? sie stellt Eitelkeit zwischen hinem. 

It was a perception of what he thought the hypocritical nature of 
Lavater which thoroughly disgusted him, and put an end to their 
friendship ; mere difference of opinion never separated him from a 

His scientific studies became enlarged by the addition of a micro- 
scope, with which he followed the investigations of Gleichen, and 
gained some insight into the marvels of the world of Infusoria. His 
drawings of the animalcules seen by him were sent to the Frau von 
Stein ; and to Jacobi he wrote : ^' Botany and the microscope are 
now the chief enemies I have to contend against. But I live in per- 
fect soUtude apart from all the world, as dumb as a fish." Amid 
these multiform studies, — ^mineralogy, osteology, botany, and con- 
stant '^dipping" into Spinoza, his poetic studies might seem to 
have fallen into the background, did we not know that Wilhelm Meister 
has reached the fifth book, the opera of Scherz, List, und RdcJie is 
written, the great religious-scientific poem Die OeJieimnisse is 
planned, Elpenor has two acts completed, and m^ruy of the minor 
poems are written. Among these poems, be it noted, are the two 
songs in Wilhelm Meister, " Kennst du das Land^^ and '^ Nur wer die 
Sehnsucht heimt", which speak feelingly of his longing for Italy. 
The preparations for that journey are made in silence. He is study- 
ing Italian, and undertakes the revision of his works for a new 
edition, in which Wieland and Herder are to help him. 

Seeing him thus happy in love, in friendship, in work, with young 
Fritz living with him, to give him, as it were, a home, and 
every year bringing fresh clearness in his purposes, one may be 
tempted to ask what was the strong impulse which could make him 
break away from such a circle, and send him lonely over the Alps ? 
Nothing but the impulse of genius. Italy had been the dream of 


his youth. It was the land where self-culture was to gain rich 
material and firm basis. That he was bom to be a Poet, he now 
deliberately acknowledged ; and nothing but solitude in the Land of 
Song seemed wanting to him. Thither he yearned to go ; thither 
he would go. 

He accompanied the Duke, Herder, and the Frau von Stein to 
Carlsbad in July 1786, taking with him the works to be revised for 
Goschen's new edition. The very sight of these works must have 
strengthened his resolution. And when Herder and the Frau von 
Stein returned to Weimar, leaving him alone with the Duke, the 
final preparations were made. He had studiously concealed this 
project firom everyone except the Duke, whose permission was neces- 
sary ; but even from him the project was partially concealed. " For- 
give me,'' he wrote to the Duke, '^ if at parting I spoke vaguely 
about my journey and its duration. I do not yet know myself what 
is to become of md. You are happy in a chosen path. Tour afihirs 
are in good order, sjid you will excuse me if I now look after my 
own ; nay, you have often urged me to do so. I am at this moment 
certainly able to be spared; things are so arranged as to go on 
smoothly in my absence. In this state of things all I ask is an in- 
definite furlough.'' He says that he feels it necessary for his intel- 
lectual health that he should " lose himself in a world where he is 
unknown ;" and begs that no one may be informed of his intended 
absence. " God bless you, is my hearty wish, and keep me your 
affection. Believe me that if I desire to make my existence more 
complete, it is that I may enjoy it better with you and yours." 

This was on the 2nd September, 1786. On the third he quitted 
Carlsbad incognito. His next letter to the Duke begins thus : 
" One more friendly word out of the distance, without date or place. 
Soon will I open my mouth and say how I get on. How it will re- 
joice me once more to see your handwriting." And it ends thus : 
'' Of course you let people believe that you know where I am." In 
the next letter he says, '' I must still keep the secret of my where- 
abouts a little longer." 





The long yearning of his life was at last fulfilled : he was in Italy. 
Alone^ and shrouded by an assumed name from all the interruptions 
with which the curiosity of admirers would have perplexed the 
author of Wertlwr, but which never troubled the supposed merchant 
Herr MoUer, he passed amid orange trees and vineyards, cities, 
statues, pictures and buildings, feeling himself '' at home in the wide 
world, no longer an exile ^\ The passionate yearnings of Mignon had 
grown with his growth and strengthened with his strength, through 
the early associations of childhood, and all the ambitions of man- 
hood, till at last they made iim sick at heart. For some time pre- 
vious to his journey he had been unable to look at engravings of 
Italian scenery, unable even to open a Latin book, because of the 
overpowering suggestions of the language ; so that Herder could 
say of him that the only Latin author ever seen in his hand was 
Spinoza. The feeling grew and grew, a mental home-sickness which 
nothing but Italian skies could cure. We have only to read Mig- 
non^s song, '^ Kennst du das Land"^ which was written before this 
journey, to perceive how trance-like were his conceptions of Italy, 
and how restless was his desire to journey there. 

And now this deep unrest was stilled. Italian voices were loud 
around him, Italian skies were above him, Italian Art was before 
him. He felt this journey was a new birth. His whole being was 
filled with warmth and light. Life stretched itself before him calm, 
radiant, and strong. He saw the greatness of his aims, and felt 
within him powers adequate to those aims. 

He has written an account of his journey ; but although no man 
could have produced a greater work, had he deliberately set himself 
to do so, and although some passages of this work are among the 
most delightful of the many pages written about Italy, yet the 
Italidnische Reise is, on the whole, a very disappointing book. Nor 
could it well have been otherwise, under the circumstances. It was 
not written soon after his return, when all was fresh in his memory. 

1796.] ITALV. 293 

and when his style had still its warmth and vigour ; but in the de- 
cline of his great powers, he collected the hasty letters sent from 
Italy to the Frau von Stein, Herder, and others, and from them he 
extracted such passages as seemed suitable, weaving them together 
with no great care, or enthusiasm. Had he simply printed the 
letters themselves, they would doubtless have given us a far more 
vivid and interesting picture ; in the actual form of the work we are 
wearied by various trifles and incidents of the day circumstantially 
narrated, which in letters would not improperly find a place, but 
which here want? the pleasant, careless, chatty form given by corre- 
spondence. The Italidnische Eeise wants the charm of a collection 
of letters, and the soUd excellence of a dehberate work. It is mainly 
interesting as indicating the effect of Italy on his mind ; an effect 
apparently too deep for utterance. He was too completely possessed 
by the new life which streamed through him, to bestow much time 
in analysing and recording his impressions. 

Curious it is to notice his open-eyed interest in all the geological 
and meteorological phenomena which present themselves ; an in- 
terest which has excited the sneers of some who think a poet has 
nothing better to do than to rhapsodise. They tolerate his enthu- 
siasm for Palladio, because architecture is one of the Arts ; and for- 
give the enthusiasm which seized him in Vicenza, and made him study 
Palladio's works as if he were about to train himself for an architect ; 
but they are distressed to find him in Padua, once more occupied 
with " cabbages,^' and tormented with the vague conception of a 
Typical Plant, which will not leave him. Let me confess, however, 
that some cause for disappointment exists. The poet's yearning is 
fhlfilled ; and yet how little literary enthusiasm escapes him ! Italy 
is the land of History, Literature, Painting, and Music ; its high- 
ways are sacred with associations of the Past ; its byways are centres 
of biographic and artistic interest. Yet Goethe, in raptures with 
the climate, and the beauties of Nature, is almost silent about Lite- 
rature, has no sense of Music, and no feeling for History. He 
passes through Verona without a thought of Romeo and Juliet; 
through Perrara without a word of Ariosto, and scarcely a word of 
Tasso. In this land of the Past, it is the Present only which allures 
him. He turns aside in disgust from the pictures of crucifixions, 
martyrdoms, emaciated monks, and all the hospital pathos which 
makes galleries hideous; only in BaphaePs healthier beauty, and 
more human conceptions, can he take delight. He has no his- 
toric sense enabling him to qualify his hatred of superstition by 
recognition of the painful religious struggles which, in their evolu- 


tions^ assumed these superstitious forms. He considers the pictures 
as things of the present^ and because their motives are hideous he 
is disgusted ; but a man of more historic feeling would^ while mark- 
ing his dislike of such conceptions^ have known how to place them 
in their serial position in the historic development of mankind. 

It is not for Literature, it is not for History, it is not for poetical 
enthusiasm, we must open the Italidnische Reise. There is no elo- 
quence in the book ; no, not even when, at Venice, he first stands in 
presence of the sea. Think of the feelings which the first sight of 
the sea must call up in the mind of a poet, and then marvel at his 
reserve. But if the Italidnische Beise does not flash out in eloquence, 
it is everywhere warm with the intense happiness of the writer. In 
Venice, for example, his enjoyment seems to have been great, 
as every hour the place ceased to be a name and became a jnc^ 
ture. The canals, lagoons, narrow streets, splendid architecture, and 
animated crowds, were inexhaustible delights. Prom Venice he 
passed rapidly through Ferrara, Bologna, Florence, Arezzo, Perugia, 
Poligno, and Spoleto, reaching Eome on the 28th October. 

In Home, where he stayed four months, enjoyment and education 
went hand in hand. " All the dreams of my youth I now see living 
before me. Everywhere I go I find an old famiUar face ; everything 
is just what I thought it, and yet everything is new. It is the same 
with ideas. I have gained no new idea, but the old ones have become 
so definite, living, and connected one with another, that they may 
pass as new.'' The riches of Rome are at first bewildering ; a long 
residence is necessary for each object to make its due impression. 
Goethe lived there among some German artists : AngeUca Kaufinann, 
for whom he had great regard, Tischbein, Moritz, and others. They 
respected his incognito as well as they could, although the fact of his 
being in Some could not long be entirely concealed. He gained, 
however, the main object of his incognito, and avoided being lionised. 
He had not come to Italy to have his vanity tickled by the approba- 
tion of society ; he came for self-culture, and resolutely pursued his 

Living amid such glories of the past, treading each day the ground 
of the Eternal City, every breath from the Seven Hills must have 
carried to him some thought of history. '' Even Roman antiquities,'' 
he writes, ''begin to interest me. History, inscriptions, coins, 
which hitherto I never cared to hear about, now press upon me. 
Here one reads history in quite another spirit than elsewhere ; not 
only Roman history, but world history.'^ Yet I do not fiaid that he 
read much history, even here. Art was enough to occupy him ; and 

1786.] . ITALY. 295 

for Painting he liad a passion which renders his want of talent still 
more noticeable. He visited Churches and Galleries with steady 
earnestness; studied Winckelmann^ and discussed critical points 
with the German artists. Unhappily he also wasted precious time in 
fruitless efforts to attain facility in drawing. These occupations^ 
however, did not prevent his completing the versification of Ijphi- 
genia, which he read to the German circle, but found only Angelica 
who appreciated it ; the others having expected something genialisch, 
something in the style of Gotz with the Iron Hand, Nor was he 
much more fortunate with the Weimar circle, who, as we have already 
seen, preferred the prose version. 

Art thus with many-sided influence allures him, but does not com- 
pletely fill up his many-sided activity. Philosophic speculations give 
new and wondrous meanings to Nature ; and the ever-pressing desire 
to discover the secret of vegetable forms sends him meditative 
through the gardens about Rome. He feels he is on the track of a 
law which, if discovered, will reduce to unity the manifold variety of 
forms. Men who have never felt the passion of discovery may rail 
at him for thus, in Rome, forgetting, among plants, the quarrels of 
the Senate and the eloquence of Cicero; but all who have be^n 
haunted by a great idea will sympathise with him, and understand 
how insignificant is the existence of a thousand Ciceros in comparison 
with a law of Nature. 

Among the few acquaintances he made, let us note that of Monti 
the poet, at the performance of whose tragedy, Aristodemo, he as- 
sisted. Through this acquaintance he was reluctantly induced to 
allow himself to be enrolled a member of the Arcadia,* under the 
title of Megalioj " per causa delta grandezza, or rather grandiositd 
delle mie opere^ as they express it.^' 

And what said Weimar to this prolonged absence of its poet? 
Instead of rejoicing in his intense enjoyment, instead of sympathising 
with his aims, Weimar grumbled and gossiped, and was loud in dis- 
approbation of his neglect of duties at home, while wandering among 
ruins and statues. Schiller, who had meanwhile come to Weimar, 
sends to Komer the echo of these grumblings, " Poor Weimar ! 
Goethe's return is uncertain, and many here look upon his eternal 
separation from all business as decided. While he is painting in 
Italy, the Vogts and Schmidts must work for him like beasts of 
burden. He spends in Italy for doing nothing a salary of 1800 dol- 
lars, and they, for half that sum, must do double work.'' One reads 

• This is erroneously placed by him during his second residence in Borne. His 
letter to Fritz von Stein, however, gives the true date. 


such sentences from a Schiller with pain ; and there are several other 
passages in the correspondence which betray a jealonsy of his great 
rival, expUcable^ perhaps, by the uneasy, unhappy condition in which 
he then struggled, but which gives his admirers pain. This jealousy 
we shall heresiler see openly and even fiercely avowed. 

While Weimar grumbled, Weimar's duke in truer sympathy wrote 
affectionately to him, releasing him from all official duties, and ex- 
tending the leave of absence as long as it might be desired. With- 
out Goethe, Weimar must indeed have been quite another place to 
Karl August; but no selfishness made him desire to shorten his 
friend's stay in Italy. Accordingly, on the 22nd of February, Goethe 
quitted Rome for Naples, where he spent five weeks of hearty enjoy- 
ment. Throwing aside his incognito, he mixed freely with society, 
and still more freely with the people, whose happy careless /ar niente 
delighted him. He there made the acquaintance of Sir William 
Hamilton, and saw the lovely Lady Hamilton, the syren whose beauty 
led the noble Nelson astray. Gt>ethe was captivated by her grace, as 
she moved through the mazes of the shawl dance she made famous. 
He was also captivated in quite another manner by the writings of 
Vico, which had been introduced to him by his acquaintance Filan- 
gierie, who spoke of the great thinker with southern enthusiasm. 

'' If in Rome one must study/' he writes, " here in Naples one 
can only live" And he Hved a manifold life : on the seashore, 
among the fishermen, among the people, among the nobles, under 
Vesuvius, on the moonlit waters, on the causeway of Pompeii, 
in Pausilippo,— everywhere drinking in fresh delight, everywhere 
feeding his fancy and experience with new pictures. Thrice did he 
asceiid Vesuvius ; and as we shall see him during the campaign in 
France pursuing his scientific observations undisturbed by the cannon, 
so here also we observe him deterred by no perils from making the 
most of his opportunity. Nor is this the only noticeable trait. Ve- 
suvius could make him forget in curiosity his personal safety, but it 
did not excite one sentence of poetry. His description is as quiet 
as if Vesuvius were Hampstead Heath. 

The enthusiasm breaks out, however, here and there. At Paastimi 
he was in raptures with the glorious antique temples, the remains of 
which still speak so eloquently of what Grecian art must have been. 

Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Capua interested him less than might 
have been anticipated. *' The book of Nature," he says, '' is after all 
the only one which has in every page important meanings/' It was 
A book which fastened him as fairy tales fasten children. 

" Here aboat the beach he wandered, noorishing a youth sablime 
With the fairy tales of science and the long result of Time." 

1786.] ITALY. 297 

Wandering thus lonely, lis thoughts hurried by the music of the 
waves, the long-baflMng, long-soHciting mystery of vegetable forms 
grew into clearness before him, and the typical plant was no more a 
vanishing conception, but a principle clearly grasped. 

On the 2nd of April he reached Palermo. He stayed a fortnight 
among its orange trees and oleanders, given up to the exquisite sen- 
sations which, lotus-like, lulled him into forgetfulness of everything, 
save the present. Homer here first became a living poet to him. 
He bought a copy of the Odyssey, read it with unutterable delight, 
and translated as he went, for the benefit of his friend Ejiiep. In- 
spired by it, he sketched the plan of Nausikaa, a drama in which 
the Odyssey was to be concentrated. Like so many other plans, this 
was never completed. The garden of Alcinous had to yield to the 
Metwmorphoses of Plants, which tyrannously usurped his thoughts. 

Palermo was the native city of Count Cagliostro, the audacious 
adventurer who, three years before, had made so conspicuous a figure 
in the affair of the Diamond Necklace. Goethe^s curiosity to see 
the parents of this reprobate, led him to visit them, xmder the guise 
of an Englishman bringing them news of their son. He has nar- 
rated the adventure at some length ; but as nothing of biographical 
interest lies therein, I pass on with this brief indication, adding that 
his sympathy, always active, was excited in favour of the poor people, 
and he twice sent them pecuniary assistance, confessing the deceit 
he had practised. 

He returned to Naples on the 14th of May, not without a narrow 
escape from shipwreck. He had taken with him the two first acts 
of Tasso (then in prose), to remodel them in verse. He found on 
reading them over, that they were soft and vague in expression, but 
otherwise needing no material alteration. After a fortnight at 
Naples, he once more arrived in Bome. This was on the 6th of 
June 1787, and he remained till the 22nd of April 1788 : ten months 
of labour, which only an activity so unusual as his own could have 
made so fruitful. Much of his time was wasted in the dabbling of 
an amateur, striving to make himself what Nature had refused to 
make him. Yet it is perhaps perilous to say that with such a mind 
any effort was fruitless. If he did not become a painter by his 
studies, the studies were doubless useful to him in other ways. Art 
and antiquities he studied in company with artistic friends. Rome 
is itself an education ; and he was eager to learn. Practice of the 
art sharpened his perceptions. He learned perspective, drew from 
the model, was passionate in endeavours to succeed with landscape, 
and even began to model a little in clay. Angelica Kaufinann told 



told him, that in Art he saw better than anyone else ; and the others 
believed perhaps that with study he would be able to do more 
than see. But all his study and all his practice were vain ; he never 
attained even the excellence of an amateur. To think of a Goethe 
thus obstinately cultivating a branch of art for which he had no 
talent, makes us look with kinder appreciation on the spectacle, so 
frequently presented, of really able men obstinately devoting them- 
selves to produce poetry which no cultivated mind can read ; men 
whose culture and insight are insufficient to make them perceive in 
themselves the difference between aspiration and inspiration. 

If some time was wasted upon efforts to become a painter, the 
rest was well employed. Not to mention his scientific investigations, 
there was abundance of work executed. Egmont was rewritten. 
The rough draft of the two first acts had been written at Frankfurt, 
in the year 1775 ; and a rough cast of the whole was made at Wei- 
mar, in 1782. He now took it up again, because the outbreak of 
troubles in the Netherlands once more brought the patriots into col- 
lision with the House of Orange. The task of rewriting was labo- 
rious, but very agreeable, and he looked with pride on the completed 
drama, hoping it would gratify his friends. These hopes were some- 
what dashed by Herder, who — ^never much given to praise — ^would 
not accept Clarchen, a character which the poet thought, and truly 
thought, he had feUcitously drawn. Besides Egmont, he prepared 
for the new edition of his works, new versions of Claudine von Villa 
Bella and Erwin und Ehnire, two comic operas. Some scenes of 
Faust were written ; also these poems : Amor als Landschaftsmaler ; 
Amor als Gast; Kutistler^s Erdemvallen; and Kilnstler's Apotlieose. 
He thus completed the last four volumes of his collected works 
which Goschen had undertaken to publish, and which we have seen 
him take to Carlsbad and to Italy, as his literary task. 

The effect of his residence in Italy, especially in Bome, was mani- 
fold and deep. Foreign travel, even to unintelligent, uninquiring 
minds, is always of great influence, not merely by the presentation 
of new objects, but also, and mainly, by the withdrawal of the mind 
from all the intricate connexions of habit and familiarity which mask 
the real relations of life. This withdrawal is important, because it 
gives a new standing-point from which we can judge ourselves and 
others, and it shows how much that we have been wont to regard as 
essential is, in reality, little more than routine. Goethe certainly 
acquired clearer views with respect to himself and his career : severed 
from all those links of habit and routine which had bound him in 
Weimar, he learned in Italy to take another and a wider survey of 

1786.] ITALY. 299 

his position. He returned home^ to all appearance^ a changed man. 
The crystallising process which commenced in Weimar was com- 
pleted in Rome. As a decisive example^ we note that he there 
finally relinquishes his attempt to become a painter. He feels that 
he is bom only for poetry, and during the next ten years resolves 
to devote himself to literature. 

One result of his study of art was to reconcile his theories and his 
tendencies. We have noted on several occasionB the objective ten- 
dency of his mind, and we now find him recognising that tendency 
as dominant in ancient art. " Let me," he writes to Herder, '' ex- 
press my meaning in a few words. The ancients represented exisU 
ences, we usually represent the effect ; they pourtrayed the terrible, 
we terribly ; they the agreeable, we agreeably, and so forth. Hence 
our exaggeration, mannerism, false graces, and all excesses. For 
when we strive after efiect, we never think we can be effective 
enough." This admirable sentence is as inaccurate in an historical, 
as it is accurate in an assthetical sense ; unless by the ancients we 
understand only Homer and some pieces of sculpture. As a criticism 
of -^schylus, Euripides, Pindar, Theocritus, Horace, Ovid, or Ca- 
tullus, it is quite wide of the truth ; rudeed, it is merely the tradi- 
tional fiction current about ancient art, which vanishes on a steady 
gaze; but inaccurate though it be, it serves to illustrate Goethe's 
theories. If he found that in Italy, it was because that best assimi- 
lated with his own tendencies, which were eminently concrete. 
"People talk of the study of the ancients," he says somewhere, 
'^but what does it mean, except that we should look at the real 
world, and strive to express it, for that is what they did." And to 
Eckermann he said : " all eras in a state of decUne are subjective ; 
on the other hand, all progressive eras have an objective tendency. 
Our present time is retrogade, for it is subjective." Here in Rome 
he listens to his critical friends with a quiet smile, " when in meta- 
physical discussions they held me not competent. I, being an artist, 
regard this as of little moment. Indeed, I prefer that the principle 
from which and through which I work should be hidden from me." 
How few Germans could say this ; how few could say with him, " Ich 
habe nie iiber das Denken gedacht ; I have never thought about 

Leaving all such generalities, and descending once more to bio- 
graphic detail, we meet Goethe again in the toils of an unhappy 
passion. How he left the Frau von Stein we have seen. Her image 
accompanied him everywhere. To her he wrote constantly. But he 
has before confessed that he loved her less when absent from her. 


and the length of his absence now seems to have cooled his udonr. 
He had been a twelvemonth away from her^ when the charms of a 
yonng Milanese^ with whom he was thrown together in Castel Gran- 
dolfo^ made him forget the coldness^ almost approaching radeness^ 
with which hitherto he had goarded himself from female fascination. 
With the rashness of a boy he falls in love, and then learns that his 
mistress is already betrothed. I am unable to tell this story with any 
distinc^tness, for he was nearly eighty years old when he wrote the 
pretty but vague account of it in the Italidnische Reise^ and there are 
no other sources come to hand. Enough that he loved^ learned she 
was betrothed, and withdrew from her society to live down his 
grief. During her illness, which followed upon an unexplained 
quarrel with her betrothed, he was silently assiduous in attentions ; 
but although they met after her recovery, and she was then free, I 
do not find him taking any steps towards replacing the husband she 
had lost. As may be supposed, the tone of his letters to the Frau 
von Stein became visibly altered : they became less confidential and 
communicative ; a change which did not escape her. 

With Herder his correspondence continues affectionate. Pleasant 
it is to see the enthusiasm with which he receives Herder's Ideen, 
and reads it in Rome with the warmest admiration ; so different from 
the way in which Herder receives what he sends from Rome ! 

On the 22nd April, 1788, he turned homewards, quitting Rome 
with unspeakable regret, yet feeling himself equipped anew for the 
struggle of life. " The chief objects of my journey,'* he writes to 
the Duke, '^ were these : to free myself from the physical and moral 
uneasiness which rendered me almost useless, and to still the feverish 
thirst I felt for true art. The first of these is tolerably, the second 
quite achieved.'' Taking Tasso with him to finish on his journey, ho 
returned through Florence, Milan, Chiavenna, Lake Constance, 
Stuttgard, and Niimberg, reaching Weimar on the 18th June, at 
ten o'clock in the evening.* 

• It will be seen from this ronte that lie never was in Genoa; consequently the 
passage in Schiller's correspondence with Komer (voL iy, p. 59), wherein a certain 
G. is mentioned as having an unhappy attachment to an artist's model, cannot 
allude to Goethe. Indeed the context, and Kdmer's reply, would make this plain 
to any critical sagacity ; but many writers on Goethe are so ready to collect scandals 
without scrutiny, that this warning is not superfluous. Vehse, for instance, in his 
work on the court of Weimar, has not the slightest misgiving about the G. meaning 
Goethe ; it never occurs to him to inquire whether Goethe ever was in Genoa, or 
whether the dates of these letters do not point unmistakeably in another direction. 

1786.] EGMONT AND TA8S0, 301 



These are men whose conduct we cannot approve, but whom we 
love more than many whose conduct is thoroughly admirable. When 
severe censors point out the sins of our favourites, reason may acqui- 
esce, but the heart rebels. We make no protest, but in secret we 
keep our love unshaken. It is with poems as with men. The 
greatest favourites are not the least amenable to criticism; the 
favourites witL Criticism are not the darlings of the public. In 
saying this we do not stultify Criticism, any more than Morality is 
stultified in our love of agreeable rebels. In both cases admitted 
faults are cast into the back-ground by some energetic excellence. 

Egmont is such a work. It is far, very far, from a masterpiece, 
but it is an universal favourite. As a tragedy, criticism makes sad 
work with it ; but when all is said, the reader thinks of Egmont and 
Clarchen, and flings criticisms to the dogs. These are the figures 
which remain in the memory: bright, genial, glorious creations, com- 
parable to any to be found in the long galleries of Art. 

As a Drama — i. e., a work constructed with a view to representa- 
tion — ^it wants the two fundamental requisites, viz., a collision of ele- 
mental passions, from whence the tragic interest should spring; 
and the construction of its materials into the dramatic form. The 
first fault lies in the conception ; the second in the execution. The 
one is the error of the dramatic poet ; the other of the dramatist. 
Had Shakspeare treated this subject, he would have thrown a life and 
character into the mobs, and a passionate movement into the great 
scenes, which would have made the whole Uve before our eyes. But 
I do not think he would have surpassed Egmont and Clarchen. 

The slow languid movement of this piece, which makes the repre- 
sentation somewhat tedious, does not lie in the length of the speeches 
and scenes, so much as in the undramatic construction. Julian 
Schmidt has acutely remarked : " A dramatic intention hovered 
before him, but he executed it in a lyrical musical style. Thus 
in the interview between Egmont and Orange, the two declaim 


against each other, instead of working on each other/' It is in cer- 
tain passages dramatic, but the whole is ondramatic. It approxi- 
mates to the novel in dialogue. 

Schiller, in his celebrated review of this work, praises the art with 
which the local colouring of History is preserved ; but most people 
would willingly exchange this historical colouring for some touches 
of dramatic movement. The merit, such as it is, belongs to erudi- 
tion, not to poetry ; for the local colour is not, as in Gotz, and in 
ScotVs romances, vivid enough to place the epoch before our eyes. 
Schiller, on the other hand, objects to the departure from history, in 
making Egmont unmarried, and to the departure &om heroic dignity 
in making him in love. &oethe of course knew that Egmont had 
a wife and several children. He rejected such historical details; 
and although I am disposed to agree with Schiller, that by the change 
he deprived himself of some powerful dramatic situations, I still think 
he did right in making the change. 

In the first place it has given us the exquisite character of Clar- 
chen, the gem of the piece. In the next place it is dubious whether 
he would have treated the powerful situations with the adequate 
dramatic intensity. He knew and confessed that his genius was not 
tragic. '' I was not bom for a tragic poet,'' he wrote to Zelter ; 
'' my nature is too conciliating ; hence no really tragic situation in- 
terests me, for it is in its essence irreconcileable." 

V* The character of Egmont is that of a healthy, noble, heroic man ; 
and it is his humanity which the poet wishes to place before us. 
We are made spectators of a happy nature, not of great actions ; 
the hero, for he is one, presents himself to us in his calm strength, 
perfect faculties, joyous, healthy freedom of spirit, loving generous 
disposition ; not in the hours of strenuous coiiflict, not in the spasms 
of his strength, not in the altitude of moc^entary exultation, but in 
the quiet strength of permanent power .Jpxhis presentation of the 
character robs the story of its dramatic collision. The tendency of 
Goethe's mind, which made him look upon men rather as a Naturalist 
than as a Dramatist, led him to prefer delineating a character, 
to delineating a passion; and his biographical tendency made 
Iiini delineate Egmont as more like what Wolfgang Goethe would 
have been under the same circumstances. This same tendency to 
draw from his own experience, also led him to create Clarchen. 
^Roaenkranz, indeed, seeking to show the profound historical con- 
ception of this work, says, that the love for Clarchen was necessary 
'^ as an indication of Egmont's sympathy with the people" ; but the 

^"^ason seems to me to have been less critical, and more biographical. 

1786] EGMONT AND TASSO. 303 

It 18 a sombre and a tragic episode in history which is treated in 
this piece. The revolution of the Netherlands was one imperiously 
commanded by the times ; it was the revolt of citizens against ex- 
asperating oppression ; of conscience against religious tyranny ; of 
the nation against a foreigner. The Duke of Alva, who thought it 
better the Emperor should lose the Netherlands than rule over a 
nation of heretics, but who was by no means wilhng that the Nether- 
lands should be lost, came to replace the Duchess of Parma in the 
regency ; came to suppress with the^sword and scaffold the rebellion 
of the heretics. The strong contrast of Spaniard and Hollander, of 
Catholic and Protestant, of despotism and liberty which this subject 
furnished, are aU indicated by Qoethe ; but he has not used them as 
powerful dramatic elements. The characters talk, talk well, talk 
lengthily ; they do not act. In the course of their conversations we 
are made aware of the state of things ; we do not dramatically assist 
at them. 

Egmont opens with a scene between soldiers and citizens, shooting 
at a mark. A long conversation lets us into the secret of the un- 
quiet state of the country, and the various opinions afloat. Compare 
it with analogous scenes in Shakspeare, imd the difference between 
dramatic and non-dramatic treatment wiU be manifest. Here the 
men are puppets ; we see the author's intention in aU they say ; 
in Shakspeare the men betray themselves, each with some peculiar 
trick of character. 

The next scene is still more feeble. The Duchess of Parma and 
Macbiavelli are in conversation. She asks his counsel ; he advises 
tolerance, which she feels to be impossible : except in the casual in- 
dication of two characters, the whole of this scene is unnecessary : 
and indeed Schiller, in his adaptation of this play to the stage, 
lopped away the character of the Duchess altogether, as an excre- 

The free, careless, unsuspicious nature of Egmont is well con- 
trasted with that of the suspicious Orange ; his character is painted 
by numerous vivid touches, and we are in one scene made aware of 
the danger he is in. But the scene ends as it began, in talk. The 
next scene introduces Clarchen and her unhappy lover Brackenburg. 
Very pretty is this conception of his patient love, and her compassion 
for the love she cannot share : 
Mother. Do you send bim away bo soon ? 

Clarchen, I long to know what is going on ; and besides— do not be angry with 
me, mother — his presence pains me. I never know how I ought to behave towards 
him. I have done him a wrong, and it goes to my very heart to see how deeply he 
feels it. Well — ^it can't be helped now. 


yioilitr, He.ia such a trae-hoEirted fellow ! 

(Mfrchen, I cannot help it, I must treat him kindly. Qflem. wiiliovA a thought I 
retwm the gentle, loving pressure of his hand. I reproach myself that I am deceiving 
him, that I am nonrishing a vain hope in his heart. I am in a sad plight. God 
knows I do not willingly deceive him. I do not wish him to hope, yet I ctmnot let 
him despair ! 

Is not that taken from the life^ and is it not exquisitely touched ? 

Cla/rehen. I loved him once, and in my soul I love him still. I could have married 
him ; yet I believe I never waa really and passionately in love with him. 

Mother. You would have been happy with him. 

Clarehen. I should have been provided for, and led a quiet life. 

Mother. And it has all been trifled away by your folly. 

ClS/rchen. I am in a strange position. When I think how it has come about, I 
know it indeed, and yet I know it not. But I have only to look on Egmont, and aU 
becomes clear to me; yes, then even stranger things would seem quite natural. Oh, 
what a man he is ! The provinces worship him. And in his arms am I not the 
happiest being alive ? 

Mothmr. And the future ? 

Cl&rchen. I ask but this — does he love me P Does he love me-^as if there could be 
a doubt ! 

There are reminiscences of Frederika in this simple^ loving Clar- 
chen^ and in the picture of her devotion to the man so much above 
her. This scene^ however, though very charming, is completely 
without onward movement. It is talk, not action ; and the return 
of Brackenburg at the close, with his despairing monologue, is not 
sufficient for the termination of an act. 

In act second we see the citizens again ; they are becoming more 
unruly as events advance. Yanzen comes to stir their rebellious 
feelings ; a quarrel ensues, which is quieted by the appearance of 
Egmont, who, on hearing their complaints, advises them to be pru- 
dent. '' Do what you can to keep the peace ; you stand in bad re- 
pute already. Provoke not the King still further. The power is in 
his hands. An honest citizen who maintains himself industriously 
has everywhere as much freedom as he needs.^' He quits them, pro- 
mising to do his utmost for them, advising them to stand against the 
new doctrines, and not to attempt to secure privileges by sedition. 
The people's hero is no demagogue. He opposes the turbulence of 
the mob, as he opposes the tyranny of the crown. In the next scene 
we have him with his secretary ; and here are further manifested the 
kindness and the imoitciance of his nature. '' It is my good fortune 
that I am joyous, live fast, and take everything easily. I would not 
barter it for a tomb-like security. My blood rebels against this 
Spanish mode of life, nor are my actions to be regulated by the cau- 
tious measures of the court. Do I live only to think of life ? Shall 
I forego the enjoyment of the present moment that I may secure the 

1788.] ; EOMONT. 305 

next^ which, when it arrives, must be consoined in idle fears and 
anxieties V* This is not the language of a poUtician, but of a happy 
man. ^^ Take life too seriously, and what is it worth ? If the morn- 
ing wake us to no new joys, if the evening bring us not the hope of 
new pleasures, is it worth while to dress and undress ? Does the sun 
shine on me to-day that I may reflect on yesterday ? That I may 
endeavour to foresee and to control what can neither be foreseen nor 
controlled — the destiny of to-morrow V The present is enough for 
him. ''The sunsteeds of Time, as if goaded by invisible spirits, 
bear onward the light car of Destiny. Nothing remains for us but, 
with calm self-possession, firmly to grasp the reins, and guide the 
car now right, now left, here from the precipice, there from the rock. 
Who knows Whither he is hasting ? Who reflects from Whence he 
came V 

Very poetic, and tragic too, is this contrast of character with cir- 
cumstance. We know the peril which threatens him. We feel that 
this serenity is in itself the certain cause of his destruction ; and it 
affects us like the joyousness of Romeo, who, the moment before he 
hears the terrible news of Juliet's death, feels " his bosom's lord sit 
lightly on its throne.'' In the scene which follows between Bgmont 
and Orange, there is a fine argumentative exposition of their sepa- 
rate views of the state of affairs ; Orange warns him to fly while 
there is yet safety ; but he sees that flight will hasten civil war, and 
he remains. 

^Act the third once more brings the Duchess and Machiavelli 
before us, and once more they talk about the troubles of the time. 
The scene changes to Clarchen's house, and we are spectators of 
that exquisite interview which Scott has borrowed in Kenilworth, 
where Leicester appears to Amy Robsart in all his princely splen- 
dour. Beautiful as this scene is, it is not enough to constitute one 
act of a drama, especially the third act; for nothing is done in it, 
nothing is indicated even in the development of the story which had 
not been indicated before ; the action stands still that we may see 
childish delight, womanly love, and manly tenderness. 

The poetic reader, captivated by this scene, will be impatient at 
the criticism which espies a fault in it, and will declare such a 
picture infinitely superior to any dramatic effect. '' What pedantry," 
he will exclaim, '' to talk of technical demands in presence of a scene 
like this !" and with a lofty wave of the hand dismiss the critic into 
contempt. Nevertheless, the critic is forced by his office to consider 
what are the technical demands. If the poet has attempted a drama, 
he must be tried by dramatic standards. However much we may de- 



light in the picture Goethe has presented in this third act, we cannot 
but feel that Shakspeare, while giving the picture, would have made 
it subservient to the progress and development of the piece; for 
Shakspeare was not only a poet, he was also a dramatic poet. 

Act the fourth again shows us citizens talking about the times, 
which grew more and more ominous. In the next scene Alva, the 
terrible Alva, appears, having laid all his plans. Orange has fled, 
but Egmont comes. A long discussion, very argumentative but 
utterly undramatic, between Alva and Egmont, is concluded by the 
arrest of the latter. 

Act the fifth shows us Clarchen in the streets trying to rouse 

Brackenburg and the citizens to revolt and to the rescue of Egmont. 

There is great animation in this scene, wherein love raises the 

M simple girl into the heroine. The citizens are alarmed, and dread 

to hear Egmont named : 

Clarchen. Stay! stay! Shriiik not away at the Bonnd of his name, to meet 
whom ye were wont to press forward so joyously ! When mmonr announced his 
approach, when the cry arose, ** Egmont comes ! he comes from Ghent !" then happy 
were they who dwelt in the streets through which he was to pass. And when the 
neighing of his steed was heard, did not every one throw aside his work, while a 
ray of hope and joy, like a sunbeam from his countenance, stole oyer the toO-wom 
faces which peered from every window. Then as ye stood in doorways ye would lift 
up your children and pointing to him exclaim, " See ! that is Egmont ! he who 
towers above the rest ! 'Tis from him ye must look for better times than those 
your poor fiithers have known I" 

Clarchen, unable to rouse the citizens, is led home by Brackenburg. 
The scene changes to Egmont's prison, where he soliloquises on his 
fate ; the scene again changes, and shows us Clarchen waiting 
with sickly impatience for Brackenburg to come and bring her the 
news. He comes ; tells her Egmont is to die ; she takes poison, and 
Brackenburg, in despair, resolves also to die. The final scene is 
very weak and very long. Egmont has an interview with Alva's 
son, whom he tries to persuade into aiding him to escape ; failing in 
this, he goes to sleep on a couch, and Clarchen appears in a vision 
as the figure of Liberty. She extends to him a laurel crown. He 
wakes — to find the prison filled with soldiers who lead him to 

There are great inequalities in this work, and some disparities of 
style. It was written at three different periods of his life; and 
although, when once completed, a work may benefit by careful re- 
vision extending over many years, it will inevitably sufier from 
fragmentary composition ; the delay which favours revision, is fatal 
to composition. A work of Art should be completed before the 

1788.] EQMONT. 307 

paint has had time to dry ; otherwise the changes brought by time 
in the development of the artist's mind will make themselves felt in 
the heterogeneous structure of the work. Egviont was conceived in ^ 
the period when Goethe was under the influence of Shakspear^ ; it 
was mainly executed in the period when he had taken a classical 
direction. It wants the stormy life of Gotz, and the calm beauty of 
Iphi^etiia. Schiller thought the close was too much in the opera 
style ; and Grervinus thinks that preoccupation with the opera, which 
Goethe at this period was led into by his friendly efibrts to assist 
Kayser, has given the whole work an operatic turn. I confess I do 
not detect this ; but I see a decided deficiency in dramatic construc- 
tion, which is also to be seen in all his later works ; and that he 
really did not know what the drama properly required, to be a drama 
as well as a poem, we shall see clearly illustrated in a future chapter. 
Nevertheless, I end as I began with saying that find what fault you 
will with Egmant, it still remains one of those general favourites 
against which criticism is powerless. 

Still less satisfactory from the dramatic point of view is Tasso ; 
of which we may say what Johnson says of Camus, '' it is a series of 
faultless lines, but no drama.'' Indeed,, for the full enjoyment of 
this exquisite poem, it is necessary that the reader should approach 
it as he approaches Gomus, or Manfred, or Philip von Artevelde, with 
no expectations of finding in it the qualities of Othello, or WalleTi- 
stein. It has a charm which few can resist ; but it wants all the 
requisites of stage representation. There is scarcely any action ; 
and what little there is only serves as a vehicle of struggle which 
goes on in Tasso's mind, instead of the struggle and collision of two 
minds. Even the dramatic elements of love and madness, are not 
dramatically treated. We feel their presence in Tasso's mind ; we 
never see their flaming energy fusing the heterogeneous materials of 
circumstance into fiery unity ; we are thus spectators of a disease, 
not of an acted story. Hence the beauty of this work lies in its 
poetry, and cannot be reproduced in a translation. 

The moment chosen by Goethe is when Tasso having just com- 
pleted his " Jerusalem Delivered," gives unmistakeable signs of the 
unhappy passion and unhappy malady which have made his biography 
one of the saddest in the sad list of *' mighty poets in their misery 
dead". German critics have affirmed that thj^ piece is saturated 
with historical facts and local colour. But it is clear that great 
liberties have been taken both with history and local colour. Indeed, 
there was too obvious a superficial resemblance between the position 
of Tasso at the Court of Ferrara and Goethe at the Court of Weimar 



not to make these liberties necessary. Had Goethe painted the 
actual relation between Tasso and Alphonso^ the public might have 
read between the lines reflections on Karl August. Moreover^ it 
is diflicult to deny the truth of Madame de StaePs remark, that 
'^ les couleurs du Midi ne sent pas assez prononc^es.'' The tone of 
the work is German throughout, and would considerably have sur- 
prised an Italian of the Court of Ferrara. 

TasBo was finally completed shortly after the rupture with the 
Frau von Stein, presently to be related ; but I have noticed it here, 
as the most convenient place. It is in truth to be regarded as one 
of the products of his early Weimar years, having been merely versi- 
fied in Italy, and after his retutn home. 

178a] RETURN HOME. 309 



GoBTHB came back from Italy greatly enriched, but by no means 
satisfied. The very wealth he had accamulated embarrassed him, 
by the new problems it presented, and the new horizons it revealed : 

''For aJl experience is an axch wherethrough 
Gleams that nntrayelled world, whose margin iades 
For ever and for ever as we move." 

He had in Some become aware that a whole life of study'would 
scarcely suffice to still the craving hunger for knowledge ; and he 
left Italy with deep regret. The return home was thus, in itself,^a 
grief; the arrival was still more painful. Every one will understand 
this, who has lived for many months away from the circle of old 
habits and old acquaintances, feeling in the new world a larger ex- 
istence more consonant with his nature and his aims ; and has then 
returned once more to the old circle, to find it unchanged, — pursuing 
its old paths, moved by the old impulses, guided by the old lights, 
—so that he feels himself a sin-anger. To return to a great capital, 
after such an absence, is to feel ill at ease; but to return from 
Italy to Weimar I If we, on entering London, after a residence 
abroad, find the same interests occupying our friends which occu- 
pied them when we left, the same family gossip, the same books 
talked about, the same placards loud upon the walls of the un- 
changing streets, the world seeming to have stood still while we 
have lived through so much : what must Goethe have felt coming 
from Italy, with his soul filled with new experience and new ideas, 
on observing the quiet unchanged Weimar? No one seemed to 
understand him ; no one sympathised in his enthusiasm, or in his 
regrets. They found him changed. He found them moving in the 
same dull round, like blind horses in a mill. 

First, let us note that he came back resolved to dedicate his life to 
Art and Science, and no more to waste efforts in the laborious duties 
of office. From Rome he had thus written to Karl August : " How 
gratefril am I to you for having given me this priceless leisure. My 


mind having from youth upwards had this bent, I should never have 
been at ease until I had reached this end. My relation to affairs 
sprang out of my personal relation to you ; now let a new relation, 
after so many years, spring from the former. I can truly say, that 
in the solitude of these eighteen months I have found my own self 
again. But as what ? As an Artist ! What else I may be, you 
wiU be able to judge and use. You have shown throughout your 
life that princely knowledge of what men are, and what they are 
useful for ; and this knowledge has gone on increasing, as your let- 
ters clearly prove to me : to that knowledge I gladly submit myself. 
Ask my aid in that Symphony which you mean to play, and I will 
at aU times gladly and honestly give you my advice. Let me fulfil 
the whole measure of my existence at your side, then will my powers, 
like a new-opened and purified spring, easily be directed hither and 
thither. Already I see what this journey has done for me, how it 
has clarified and brightened my existence. As you have hitherto 
borne with me, so care for me in future ; you do me more good than 
I can do myself, more than I can claim. I have seen a large and 
beautiful bit of the world, and the result is, that I wish only to live 
with you and yours. Yes, I shall become more to you than I have 
been before, if you let me do what I only can do, and leave the rest 
to others. Your sentiments for me, as expressed in your letters, 
are so beautiful, so honourable to me, that they make me blush, — 
that I can only say : Lord, here am I, do with thy servant as seemeth 
good unto thee." 

The wise Duke answered this appeal nobly. He released his. 
friend from the Presidency of the Chamber, and from the direction 
of the War Department, but kept a distinct place for hirn in the 
Council, " whenever his other affairs allowed him to attend." The 
poet remained the adviser of his Prince, but was reUeved from the 
more onerous duties of office. The direction of the Mines, and of 
all Scientific and Artistic Institutions, he retained; among them that 
of the Theatre. 

It was generally found that he had grown colder in his manners 
since his Italian journey. Indeed, the process of crystaUisation had 
rapidly advanced; and beyond this effect of development, which 
would have taken place had he never left Weimar, there was the 
further addition of his feeling himself at a different standing-point 
from those around him. The less they understood him, the more he 
drew within himself. Those who understood him, Moritz, Meyer, 
the Duke and Herder, found no cause of complaint. 

During the first few weeks he was of course constantly at Court. 

1788.] RETURN HOME. 311 

Thus the Hof-Omirier Buck tells us that the day after his arrival he 
dined at Court. This was the 19th June. Again on the 20th, 22nd, 
25th, 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th. In July, on the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 
7th, 8th, 11th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th,and 21st, 
and so on almost uninterruptedly till September. His official release 
made the bond of friendship stronger. Besides, everyone was 
naturally anxious to hear about his travels, and he was delighted to 
talk of them. 

But if Weimar complained of the change, to which it soon grew 
accustomed, there was one who had deeper cause of complaint, and 
whose nature was not strong enough to bear it — the Fran von Stein. 
Absence had cooled the ardour of his passion. In Eome, to the 
negative influence of absence, was added the positive influence of a 
new love. He had returned to Weimar, still grateful to her for the 
happiness she had given him, still feeling for her the afiection which 
no conduct of her's could destroy, and which warmed his heart 
towards her to the last; but he returned also with little of the 
passion she had for ten years inspired ; he returned with a full con- 
viction that he had outlived it. Nor did her presence serve to re- 
kindle the smouldering embers. Charlotte von Stein was now 
five-and-forty. It is easy to imagine how much he must have been 
struck with the change in her. Had he never left her side, this 
change would have approached with gradual steps, stealthily escaping 
observation ; but the many months' absence removed a veil from his 
eyes. She was five-and-forty to him, as to others. In this perilous 
position she adopted the very worst course. She found him changed, 
and told him so, in a way which made him feel more sharply the 
change in her. She thought him cold, and her resource was — 
reproaches. The resource was more feminine than felicitous. In- 
stead of sympathising with him in his sorrow at leaving Italy, she 
felt the regret as an ofience ; and perhaps it was ; but a truer, 
nobler nature would surely have known how to merge its own pain 
in sympathy with the pain of one beloved. He regretted Italy; 
she was not a compensation to him ; she saw this, and her self-love 
sufiered. The coquette who had so long held him captive, now saw 
the captive freed from her chains. It was a trying moment. But 
even in the worst aspect of the position, there was that which a 
worthy nature would have regarded as no small consolation : she 
might still be his dearest friend ; and the friendship of such a man 
was worth more than the love of another. But this was not to be. 

Before the final rupture, he went with her to Eudolstadt, and 
there for the first time spoke with Schiller, who thus writes to 


Komer, 12tli September, 1788: "At last I can tell you about 
Goethe, and satisfy your curiosity. The first sight of him was by 
no means what I had been led to expect. He is of middle stature, 
holds himself stiffly and walks stiffly ; his countenance is not open, 
but his eye very full of expression, Hvely, and one hangs with 
delight on his glances. With much seriousness his mien has never- 
theless much goodness and benevolence. He is brown complexioned, 
and seemed to me older in appearance than his years, ffis voice is 
very agreeable, his narrations are flowing, animated, and full of 
spirit ; one listens with pleasure ; and when he is in good humour, 
as was the case this time, he talks willingly and with great interest. 
We soon made acquaintance, and without the shghtest effort ; the 
circle, indeed, was too large, and every one too jealous of him, for 
me to speak much with him alone, or on any but general topics. 
. . . .On the whole, I must say that my great idea of him is not 
lessened by this personal acquaintance ; but I doubt whether we 
shall ever become intimate. Much that to me is now of great in- 
terest, he has already lived through; he is, less in years than in 
experience and self-culture, so far beyond me that we can never 
meet on the way ; and his whole being is originally different from 
mine, his world is not my world, our conceptions are radically 
different. Time will show.'' 

Could he have looked into Goethe's soul he would have seen there 
was a wider gulf between them than he imagined. In scarcely any 
other instance was so great a friendship ever formed between men 
who at first seemed more opposed to each other. At this moment 
Goethe was peculiarly ill-disposed towards any friendship with 
Schiller, for he saw in him the powerful writer who had corrupted 
and misled the nation. He has told us how pained he was on his 
return from Italy to find Germany jubilant over Heinse's Ardinghello, 
and Schiller's Robbers, and Fiesco. He had pushed far from him, and 
for ever, the whole Sturm und Drang creed ; he had outgrown that 
tendency, and learned to hate his own works which sprang from it ; in 
Italy he had taken a new direction, hoping to make the nation follow 
him in this higher region, as it had followed him before. But while he 
advanced, the nation stood still ; he " passed it like a ship at sea". 
Instead of following him, the public followed his most extravagant 
imitators. He hoped to enchant men with the calm ideal beauty of 
an Iphigenia, and the sunny heroism of an Egmont; and found 
every one enraptured with Ardinghello and Karl Moor. His 
publisher had to complain that the new edition of his works, on 
which so much time and pains had been bestowed, went off very 


1788.] RETURN HOME. 313 

slowly, while the highly-spiced works of his rivals were bought by 

SchOler macht sich der Schw&rmer genng, und rGhret die Menge 
Wenn der yemflnftige Mann einzelne Liebende z&hlt. 
Wunderth&tige Bilder sind meist nnr schlechte Gem&lde, 
Werke des Geists und der Eunst sind ftir den Pdbel nicht da.* 

In this frame of mind it is natural that he should keep aloof from 
Schiller, and withstand the various eflforts made to bring about an 
intimacy. " To be much with Goethe,'* Schiller writes in the 
February following, '' would make me unhappy ; with his nearest 
fidends he has no moments of overflowingness : I believe, indeed, he 
is an egoist, in an unusual degree. He has the talent of conquer- 
ing men, and of binding them by small as well as great attentions : 
but he always knows how to hold himself free. He makes his ex- 
istence benevolently felt, but only like a god, without giving him- 
self : this seems to me a consequent and well-planned conduct, 
which is calculated to ensure the highest enjoyment of self-love. . . . 
Thereby is he hateful to me, although I love his genius from my 
heart, and think greatly of him. ... It is quite a peculiar mixture of 
love and hatred he has awakened in me, a feeling akin to that which 
Brutus and Cassius must have had for CaBsar. I could kill his 
spirit, and then love him again from my heart. *' These sentences 
read very strangely now we "know how Schiller came to love and 
reverence the man whom he here so profoundly misunderstands, and 
whom he judges thus from the surface. But they are interesting 
sentences in many respects ; in none more so than in showing that 
if he, on nearer acquaintance, came to love the noble nature of his 
great rival, it is a proof that he had seen how superficial had been 
his first judgment. Let the reader who has been led to think 
harshly of Goethe, from one cause or another, take this into consi- 
deration, and ask himself whether he too, on better knowledge, 
might not alter his opinion. 

" With Goethe," so runs another letter, " I will not compare my- 
self, when he puts forth his whole strength. He has far more genius 
than I have, and greater wealth of knowledge, a more accurate sen- 
suous perception (eine sichere Sinnlichkeit) , and to all these he adds 
an artistic taste, cultivated and sharpened by knowledge of all works 
of Art.*' But with this acknowledgment of superiority there was 

* Dreamers make scholars enough, they flatter the weakness of thousands. 
While the intelligent man counts his disciples by tens. 
Poor indeed are the pictures famous for miracle-working : 
Art in its loftiest forms ne'er can be prized by the mob. 


coupled an unpleasant feeling of envy at Goethe^s happier lot^ a 
feeling which his own unhappy position renders very explicable. 
" I will let you see into my heart," he writes to Komer. " Once far 
all, this man, this Ooetlie, stands in my way, and recalls to me 
so often that fate has dealt hardly with me. How lightly is his 
genius borne by his fate ; and how must I even to this moment 
struggle !" 

Fate had indeed treated them very differently. Throughout 
Schiller's correspondence we are pained by the sight of sordid cares, 
and anxious struggles for existence. He is in bad health, in difficult 
circumstances. We see him forced to make literature a trade ; and 
it is a bad one. We see him anxious to do hack-work^ and transla- 
tions, for a few dollars, quite cheered by the prospect of getting such 
work; nay, glad to farm it out to other writers, who will do it 
for less than he receives. We see him animated with high aspira- 
tions, and depressed by cares. He too is struggling through the 
rebellious epoch of youth, but has not yet attamed the clearness of 
manhood ; and no external aids come to help him through the 
struggle. Goethe, on the contrary, never knew such cares. All his 
life he had been shielded from the depressing influence of poverty ; 
and now he has leisure, affluence^ renown, social position — little 
from without to make him unhappy. Whe^ Schiller therefore thought 
of all this, he must have felt that fate had been a niggard step- 
mother to him, as she had been a lavish mother to his rival. 

Yet Gt)ethe had his sorrows, too, though not of the same kind. 
He bore within him the flame of genius, a flame which consumes 
while it irradiates. His struggles were with himself, and not with 
circumstances. He felt himself a stranger in the land. Few under- 
stood his language ; none understood his aims. He withdrew into 

There is one point which must be noticed in this position of the 
two poets, namely, that however great Schiller may be now esteemed, 
and was esteemed by Goethe after awhile, he was not at this 
moment regarded with anything beyond the feeling usually felt for a 
rising young author. His early works had indeed a wide popularity; 
but so had the works of Klinger, Maler Miiller, Lenz, Kotzebue, and 
others, who never conquered the great critics ; and Schiller was so 
unrecognised at this time that, on coming to Weimar^ he complains, 
with surprise as much as with offended self-love, that Herder seemed 
to know nothing of him beyond his name, not having apparently 
read one of his works. And Goethe, in the official paper which he 

178a] RETURN HOME. 315 

drew up recommending Schiller to the Jena professorship, speaks of 
him as " a Herr Friedrich Schiller, author of an historical work on 
the Netherlands/' So that not only was Schiller's tendency anti- 
pathetic to all Goethe then prized, he was not even in that position 
which commands the respect of antagonists ; and Goethe considered 
Art too profoundly important in the development of mankind, for 
differences of tendency to be overlooked as unimportant. 




One day early in July, 1788, Goethe, waUdng in the much-loved 
park, was accosted by a fresh, young, bright-looking girl, who, with 
many reverences, handed him a petition. He looked into the bright 
eyes of the petitioner, and then, in a conciliated mood, looked at the 
petition, which entreated the great poet to exert his influence to pro- 
cure a post for a young author, then living at Jena by the translation 
of French and Italian stories. This young author was Vulpius, 
whose Ri/naldo Rinaldini has doubtless made some of my readers 
shudder in their youth. His robber romances were at one time very 
popular ; but his name is now only rescued from oblivion, because 
he was the brother of that Christiane who handed the petition to 
Goethe, and who thus took the first step on the path which led to 
their marriage. Christiane is on many accounts an interesting 
figure to those who are interested in the biography of Goethe ; and 
the love she excited, no less than the devotedness with which for 
eight-and-twenty years she served him, deserve a more tender 
memory than has befallen her. 

Her father was one of those wretched beings whose drunkenness 
slowly but surely brings a whole family to want. He would some- 
times sell the coat off his back for drink. When his children grew 
up, they contrived to get away from him, and to support themselves : 
the son by hterature, the daughters by making artificial flowers,* 
woollen work, etc. It is usually said that Christiane was utterly un- 
educated, and the epigrammatic pen gUbly records that ^' Goethe 
married his servant.^' She never was his servant. Nor was she 
uneducated. Her social position indeed was very humble, as the 
foregoing indications suggest : but that she was not uneducated is 
plainly seen in the facts, of which there can be no doubt, namely, 
that for her were written the Roman Elegies, and the Metamorphoses 
of Pla/tds ; and that in her company Goethe pursued his optical and 
botanical researches. How much she understood of these researches 
• This detail will give the reader a due to the poem Der neue Pausias, 

1788.] CHRI8TIANE VULPIU8. 317 

we cannot know : but it is certain that^ unless she had shown a lively 
comprehension, he would never have persisted in talking of them to 
her. Their time, he says, was not spent only in caresses, but also 
in rational talk : 

Wird dooh nicht immer gekflSBtj es -wird Temiinftig gesproohen. 

This is decisive. Throughout his varied correspondence we always 
see him presenting different subjects to different minds, treating of 
topics in which his correspondents are interested, not dragging for- 
ward topics which merely interest him ; and among the wide range 
of subjects he had mastered, there were many upon which he mighty 
have conversed with Christiane, in preference to science, had she 
shown any want of comprehension of scientific phenomena. There 
is one of the Elegies, the eighth, which in six lines gives us a distinct 
idea of the sort of cleverness and the sort of beauty which she pos- 
sessed; a cleverness not of the kind recognised by schoolmasters, 
because it does not display itself in aptitude for book-learning ; a 
beauty not of the kind recognised by conventional taste, because it 
wants the conventional regularity of feature. 

WesDJO. dn mir sagst, da habeet als Kind, Geliebte, den Menachen 

Nicht gefiEdlen, und dich liabe die Matter verschmalit^ 

Bis da grosser geworden and still dich entwickeit; ich glaaV es : 

Qeme denk* ich mir dich als ein besonderes Kind. 

Fehlet Bildong and Farbe doch auoh der Bliithe dee Weinstocks, 

Wenn die Beere^ gereift^ Menschen and GU^tter entzUckt.* 

Surely the poet^s word is to be taken in such a case f 

While, however, rectifying a general error, let me not fall into the 
opposite extreme. Christiane had her charm ; but she was not a 
highly gifted woman. She was not a Frau von Stein, capable of 
being the companion and the sharer of his highest aspirations. 
Quick motherwit, a lively spirit, a loving heart, and great aptitude 
for domestic duties, she undoubtedly possessed : she was gay, enjoy- 
ing, fond of pleasure even to excess, and — as may be read in the 
poems which she inspired — was less the mistress of his Mind than of 
his Affections. Her golden-brown locks, laughing eyes, ruddy 
cheeks, kiss-provoking lips, small and graceAiUy rounded figure, gave 
her " the appearance of a young Dionysos.^^t Her naivete, gaiety 
and enjoying temperament, completely fascinated Goethe, who recog- 

* " When yoa tell me, dearest, that as a child you were not admired, and even 
year mother scorned yoa, till yoa grew ap and silently developed yourself; I can 
qaite believe it. I can readily imagme yoa as a pecaliar child. If the blossoms of 
the vine are wanting in colonr and form, the grapes once ripe are the delight of 
gods and men." 

t So says Madame Schopenhauer, not a prc^judiced witness. 


nised in her one of those free, healthy specimens of Nature which 
education had not distorted with artifice. She was like a child of 
the sensuous Italy he had just quitted with so much regret \ and 
there are few poems in any language which approach the passionate 
gratitude of those in which he recalls the happiness she gave him. 

Why did he not marry her at once ? His dread of marriage has 
already been shown ; and to this abstract dread there must be added 
the great disparity of station : a disparity so great that not only did 
it make the liaison scandalous, it made Ghristiane herself reject the 
offer of marriage. Stahr reports that persons now living have heard 
her declare that it was her own fault her marriage was so long de- 
layed ; and certain it is that when — Christmas 1 789 — she bore him a 
child (August von Goethe, to whom the Duke stood godfather), he 
took her with her mother and sister to live in his house, and always 
regarded the connection as a marriage. But however he may have 
regarded it. Public Opinion has not forgiven this defiance of social 
laws. The world blamed him loudly ; even his admirers cannot think 
of the connection without pain. '' The Nation,'' says Schafer, " has 
never forgiven its greatest poet for this rupture with Law and 
Custom ; nothing has stood so much in the way of a right apprecia- 
tion of his moral character, nothing has created more false judg- 
ments on the tendency of his writings than his half-marriage.'' 

But let us be just. While no one can refrain from deploring that 
Goethe, so eminently needing a pure domestic life, should not have 
found a wife whom he could avow, one who would in all senses have 
been a wife to him, the mistress of his house, the companion of his 
life ; on the other hand, no one who knows the whole circumstances 
can refrain from confessing that there was also a bright side to this 
dark episode. Having indicated the dark side, and especially its 
social effect, we have to consider what happiness it brought him at a 
time when he was most lonely, most unhappy. It gave him the joys 
of paternity, for which his heart yearned. It gave him a faithful and 
devoted affection. It gave him one to look after his domestic 
existence, and it gave him a peace in that existence which hitherto 
he had sought in vain. 

Oftmals haV ich geirrt, and habe mich wieder gefunden, 
Aber gldeklicher nie ; nun ist diess M&dchen mein Glttck ! 
1st auch dieses ein Irrthum, so schont mich, ihr klilgeren Gdtter, 
Und benehmt mir ihn erst dr^en am kalten G^tad.* 

• " Often have I erred, and always found the path a^ain, but never found m jself 
happier : now in this maiden lies my happiness ! If this, too, is an error, O spare 
me the knowledge, ye gods, and let me only discover it beyond the grave." 


There is a letter still extant (unpublished) written ten years af))er 
their first acquaintance^ in which, like a passionate lover, he regrets 
not having taken something of her*s on his journey — even her slip- 
per — ^that he might feel less lonely !* To have excited such love, 
Christiane must have been a very different woman from that which it 
is the fashion in Germany to describe her as being. In conclusion, let 
it be added that his Mother not only expressed herself perfectly satisfied 
with his choice, received Christiane as a daughter, and wrote affec- 
tionately to her, but refused to listen to the officious meddlers who 
tried to convince her of the scandal which the connection occasioned. 

The Roman Elegies are doubly interesting : first, as expressions 
of his feelings ; secondly, as perhaps the most perfect poems of the 
kind in all literature. In them we see how the journey to Italy had 
saturated his mind with the spirit of ancient Art. Yet while repro- 
ducing the past with matchless felicity, he is, at the same time, 
thoroughly original. Nowhere in Greek or Boman literature do I 
remember this union of great thoughts, giving grandeur to the verse, 
with individual passion, giving it intensity. They are not simply 
elegies — out-pourings of individual feelings — ^they are Roman elegies, 
and mirror a world. In modem poems all classical recollections and 
allusions are for the most part frigid and laboured, springing from 
study ; not the spontaneous forms of poetic expression. In these 
Roman Elegies the classic world lives again ; indeed at times one can 
almost say he is more antique than the ancients, f The thirteenth 
elegy. Amor der Schalk, for example, is in Anacreon's manner, but 
far above anything we have of Anacreon. Antique also is the direct 
unmisgiving sensuousness of the poet, and his unperplexed earnest- 
ness of passion, an earnestness which does not absorb the other 
activities of his nature, but allies itself with them. Thus in the 
fifth elegy there is a picture of the most vivid sensuousness, aiding, 
not thwarting, the poetical activity. What a poem, what a world 
of emotion and thought these lines suggest : 

UeberfaUt aie der Schlaf, lieg:* ich nnd denke mir Tiel. 

Oftmals hab' ich auch schon in ihren Armen gedichtet, 

Und des Hexameters Mass leise mit fingemder Hand 

Ihr aof dem BtLcken gez&hlt. Sie athmet in lieblichem Schlnmmer, 

Und es dnrchgl(iliet ihr Hanch mir bis ins Tiefste die Brost. 

This picture of the poet murmuring verses while his beloved sleeps 

* My accomplished Grerman translator here adds some passages from Goethe's 
correspondence with Herder, which indicate the fervoor of the passion Christiane 
excited and sustained. 

t Schlegel happily says of them, "they enrich Soman poetry with German 
poems." Charakteristiken und Kritiken, ii, p. 199. 


softly by his side ; warmed by her breathy yet with fingering hand 
marking the rhythm of verse; is typical of the whole story of 
Goethe's love. Passion fed, it never stifled the flame of his genius. 
He enjoyed ; but in the brief pauses of enjoyment the presence of 
high aims was felt. 

The blending of individual passion with classic forms, making the 
past live again in the feeling of the present, may be illustrated by 
the following example : 

Lass dich, Gtoliebte, nioht rea'n^ dass du mir so schnell dich ergeben ! 

Glaub' es, ich denke nicht frech, denke nicht niedrig Yon dir. 

Viel£M}h wirken die Pfeile des Amor : einige ritzen 

Und yom schleichendeii Gift kranket auf Jahre das Herz. 

Aber machtig befiodert, mit firisch geschliffener sch&rfe, 

Dxingen die andem ins Mark, ziinden behende das Blut. 

In der heroischen Zeit, da Ootter ftnd Qottinnen lUiften, 

Folgte Begierde dem Blick, folgte Gfenvess der Begier. 

Glaubst du, es habe sich lange die G5ttin der Liebe besonnen, 

Als in Idaischen Hain einst ihr Anchises gefiel ? 

Hatte Luna gesdwnt, den achdnen 8chla/er tu kussen. 

O, so hatf ihn geeehtoind, neidend, Aurora geweckt,* 

Many of the finest passages are as antique in their directness of 
expression as in other qualities. He said justly to Eckermann, 
that Metre is a peculiar veil which clothes the nakedness of ex- 
pression, and makes that admissible which in prose would be ofien- 
sive, and which even in another lighter kind of Metre would be 
offensive. In the Don Juan stanza he says the material of the 
Roman Elegies would be indelicate. On the question how far a poet 
is justified in disregarding the conventional proprieties of his age in 
the pourtrayal of feeling, let Schiller be heard : ^' The laws of pro- 
priety are foreign to innocent nature ; only the experience of cor- 
ruption has given origin to them. But as soon as that corruption 
has taken place, and natural innocence has vanished from manners, 
the laws of propriety are sacred, and moral feeling will not offend 
them. They have the same validity in an artificial world as the laws 

* In Mr. Theodore Martin's volume of privately printed poems and translations^ 
the passage in the text is thus rendered : — 

Blnsh not, mj love» at the thought, thou yieldest so soon to my passion. 

Trust me, I think it no shame— think it no vileness in thee ! 

Shafts &om the quiver of Amor have manifold consequence. Some scratch. 

And the heart sickens for years with the insidious bane : 

Others drawn home to the head, full plumed, and cruelly pointed. 

Pierce to the marrow, and straight kindle the blood into name. 

In the heroical age, when goddess and god were the lovers. 

Scarce did they look but they long'd, longing they rush'd to exgoy. 

Think'st thou Love's goddess hung back, when deep in the forest of Ida, 

She, with a thrill of delight, first her Anchises beheld ? 

Coyly had Luna delayed to fondle the beautiful sleeper. 

Soon had Aurora in spite wakon'd the boy from his dream. 


of nature have in a world of innocence. But the very thing which 
constitutes the poet, is that he banishes from himself everything 
which reminds him of an artificial world, that he may restore nature 
in her primitive simplicity. And if he has done this, he is thereby 
absolved from all laws by which a perverted heart seeks security 
against itself. He is pure, he is innocent, and whatever is permitted 
to innocent nature is permitted also to him. If thou who readest 
and hearest him art no longer innocent, and if thou canst not even 
momentarily become so by his purifying presence, it is thy misfortune 
and not his ; thou forsakest him, he did not sing for thee.'^ 

Had Goethe written nothing but the Roman Elegies, he would 
hold a first place among German poets. These elegies are, moreover, 
scarcely less interesting in their biographical significance. They 
speak plainly of the efiect of Italy upon his mind. They speak 
eloquently of his love for Christiane. There are other tributes to her 
charms, and to the happiness she gave him ; but were there no other 
tributes, these would suffice to show the injustice of the opinion 
which ther malicious tongues of Weimar have thrown into currency 
respecting her ; opinions, indeed, which received some countenance 
from her subsequent life, when she had lost youth and beauty, and 
when the faults of her nature had acquired painful prominence. It 
is Goethe's misfortune with posterity that he is mostly present to 
our minds as the calm old man, seldom as the glorious youth. The 
majority of busts, portraits, and biographic details, are of the late 
period of his career. In like manner, it is the misfortune of his 
wife that testimonies about her come mostly from those who only 
saw her when the grace and charm of youth had given place to a 
coarse and corpulent age. But the biographer's task is to ascertain 
by diligent inquiry what is the truth at the various- epochs of a 
career, not limiting himself to one epoch ; and as I have taken great 
pains to represent the young Goethe, so also have I tried to rescue 
the young Christiane from the falsifications of gossip, and the mis- 
representations derived from judging her youth by her old age. 

It has already been intimated that Weimar was loud in disappro- 
bation of this new liaison ; although it had uttered no word against 
the liaison with the Frau von Stein. The great offence seems to 
have been his choosing one beneath him in rank. A chorus of in- 
dignation rose. It produced the final rupture between him and the 
Frau von Stein. Here is a letter wherein he answers her reproaches : 
— " If you could but listen to me, I would gladly teU you, that 
although your reproaches pain me at the moment, they leave no 
trace of anger in my heart against you. Moreover, I can set them 


riglit. K yon have mucli to bear from me^ it is but just that I 
should also bear with you. It is mncli better that we should come 
to a friendly imderstanding^ than strive constantly to come to una- 
nimity, and when that striving fails, separate again. It is impossible 
to clear myself with yon, because, on every reckoning, I must remain 
your debtor. But if we conisider how much we have aU to bear 
from each other, we shall still, dearest, forgive one another. Fare- 
well, and love — ^me. On the first opportunity you shall hear more 
about the pretty secrets.'' \ 

The pretty secrets here alluded to are probably about CJhris- 
tiane. The letter produced a reply, which called fix)m him the fol- 
lowing : " Thanks for thy letter, although it has troubled me in 
more ways than one. I delayed answering it, because it is difficult 
in such cases to be sincere, and not give pain. . . . What I left 
behind in Italy I will not now repeat ; you have already repulsed 
my confidence on that subject in a manner sufficiently unfriendly. 
When I first returned, you were, unhappily, in a peculiar mood, and 
I honestly confess the way in which you received me was excessively 
painful. I saw Herder and the Duchess depart for Italy; they 
urgently offered me a place in their carriage, but I stayed behind for 
the sake of that friend for whom I had returned ; and this, too, was 
at a moment when I was incessantly and sarcastically told that I 
might as well have remained in Italy, — ^that I had no sympathy, and 
so on. And all this before there was a hint of the liaison which now 
seems to offend you so much. And what is this liaison 7 Who is 
beggared by it ? Who makes any claims on the feelings I give the 
poor creature ? Who, on the -hours I pass in her society ? Ask 
Fritz, ask the Herders, ask any one who knows me intimately, 
whether I am less* sympathetic, less active, or less friendly than 
before ? Whether I do not rather now, for the first time, rightly 
belong to them and to society? And it must be by a miracle 
indeed if I should have forgotten the best, the deepest relation of 
all, that, namely, to thee. How vividly I have felt my disposition 
to be the same, whenever it has happened that we have talked on 
some interesting subject ! But I freely confess that the manner in 
which you have treated me hitherto is not to be endured. When 
I was inclined to talk, you shut my lips ; when I was communicative 
about Italy, you complained of my indifference ; when I was active 
for my friends, you reproached me with coldness and neglect of 
you. You criticised every look, blamed every movement, and con- 
stantly made me feel ill at ease. How then can openness and con- 
fidence continue, while you repulse me with predetermined ill 


hnmonr T I would add more, did I not fear that in your present 
mood it might irritate you more than it would tend to reconcile us. 
Unhappily you have long despised my advice with reference to coffee, 
and have adopted a regimen eminently injurious to your health. As 
if it were not already difficult enough to conquer certain moral im- 
pressions, you strengthen your hypochondria by physical aids, the 
evil influence of which you have long acknowledged, and out of love 
to me had for some time relinquished, to the obvious improvement 
of your health. May the present journey do you good 1 I do not 
quite relinquish the hope that you will again learn to know me. 
Farewell. Fritz is happy, and visits me constantly.'' 

Over this letter she wrote ! ! ! It was a terrible letter to re- 
ceive, and she doubtless was indignant at what she conceived to be 
its injustice. She had been '^ misunderstood''. People always are 
misunderstood in such cases. They are blameless, but their conduct 
is misrepresented. They are conscious of having felt precisely the 
reverse of what is attributed to them ; and they wonder that they 
are not known better. 

Shifting our position, and reading the letter less from the Fran 
von Stein's point of view, than from the point of view of bystanders, 
we read in it the amplest justification of the writer. We see how 
intensely unamiable must have been her manner of receiving him. 
Her subsequent conduct but too well confirms this impression. 
She showed herself worse than unamiable. The final passage of the 
letter alluding to her hypochondria being aggravated by coffee and 
bad diet, reads like an impertinence; but those who know how 
serious he was in his objections to the use of coffee, and how clearly 
he perceived the influence of physical well-being on moral health, 
will not be surprised at it. At any rate, whatever accents of harsh- 
ness may be heard in this letter, there is no mistaking the pain in it ; 
and a week after, he writes the following : 

'' It is not easy for me to write a letter with more pain than the 
one I last wrote to thee, which was probably as impleasant for thee 
to read as for ^le to write. Meanwhile at least the lips have been 
opened, and I hope that never may we henceforth keep them closed 
against each other. I have had no greater happiness than ^ly con- 
fidence in thee, w hich formerly was unlimited, and since Fhave been 
unaBle to use it, I have become another man, and must in future 
still more become so. I do not complain of my present condition, I 
have managed to make myself at home in it, and hope to keep so, 
although the climate once more affects me, and will sooner or later 
make me unfit for much that is good. But when I think of the damp 



summer and severe winter, and of the combination of outward cir- 
cumstances whicli makes existence here difficult, I know not which 
way to turn.* I say this as much in relation to thee as to myself, 
and assure thee that it pains me infinitely to giye thee pain under 
such circumstances. I will say nothing in my own excuse. But I 
would beg thee to help me so that the relation which thou objectest 
to may not become still more objectionable, but remain as it is. 
Give me once more thy confidence; see the case from a natural 
point of view, let me speak to thee quietly and reasonably about it, 
and I dare to hope that everything between us will once more be 
pure and friendly. Thou hast seen my mother and made her happy ; 
let my return make me happy also.'* 

He oflTered friendship in vain ; he had wounded the self-love of a 
vain woman ; there is a relentless venom in ignoble minds, when the 
self-love is wounded, which poisons friendship and destroys all gra- 
titude. It was not enough for the Frau von Stein that he had loved 
her so many years with a rare devotion ; it was not. enough that he 
had been more to her child than its own father was; it was not 
enough that now the inevitable change had come, he still felt ten- 
derness and aflTection for her, grateful for what she had been to him ; 
the one fact, that he had ceased to love her, expunged the whole 
past. A nature with any nobleness never forgets that once it loved, 
and once was happy in that love ; the generous heart is grateful in 
its memories. The heart of the Frau von Stein had no memory but 
for its wounds. She spoke with petty malice of the '' low person ^* 
who had usurped her place ; rejected Goethe^s friendship ; affected to 
pity him ; and circulated gossip about his beloved. They were forced 
to meet ; but they met no longer as before. To the last he thought 
and spoke of her tenderly ; and I know on unexceptionable authority 
that when there was anything appetising brought to table, which he 
thought would please her, he often said, " Send some of this to the 
Frau von Stein.^' 

There is a letter of her^s extant which shows what was the state 
of her feelings after a lapse of twelve years. It may find a place 
here as a conclusive document with which to wind up the strange 
episode of their history. It is addressed to her son. Three passages 
are italicised by way of emphasis, to call attention to the spirit 
animating the writer. 

^' Weimar y January 12fA, 1801. 

*^ I did not know that omv former friend GoetJie, was still so dear to 

* This is a paraphrastic abbreyiation of the passage, which if giTen as in the 
original would need long collateral explanations. 



me, that a severe illness, from which he has been suffering for nine 
days, would so deeply affect me. It is a convulsive cough accom- 
panied with erysipelas; he can lie in no bed, and is obliged always 
to be kept in a standing posture, otherwise he would be choked. 
His neck, as well as his face, is swollen and full of internal bhsters, 
his left eye stands out like a great nut, and discharges blood and 
matter ; he is often delirious, inflammation of the brain was feared, 
so he was bled, and had mustard foot-baths, which made his feet 
swell, and seemed to do him some good ; but last night the con- 
vulsive cough returned, I fear from his having been shaved yesterday ; 
my letter will tell you either of his being better or of his death — I 
shiJl not send it before. The Schillers and I have already shed many 
tears over him in the last few days ; I deeply regret now that when 
he wished to visit me on New Year's Day, J, alas ! because I lay ill 
with headache, excfused myself, and now I shall perhaps never see him 

" \Asth. Goethe is better, but the twenty-first day must be got 
over ; between this and then something else might happen to him, 
because the inflammation has injured something in his head and his 
diaphragm. Yesterday he ate with great appetite some soup which 
I had sent him ; his eye, too, is better, but he is very melancholy, 
and they say he wept for three hours ; especially he weeps when he 
sees August, who has in the meantime taken refuge with me : I am 
sorry for the poor boy, he was dreadfully distressed, but he is already 
accustomed to drink away his troubles ; he lately in a club belonging 
to his mother's class, drank seventeen glasses of champagne, and I 
had the greatest diflSculty in keeping him from wine when he was 
with me. 

" 15/*. Goethe sent to me to-day, thanked me for my sympathy, 
and hoped he should soon be better ; the doctors consider him out 
of danger, but his recovery will take a long time yet.^' 

Who could believe that this was written by one passionately loved 
for ten years, and written of one who was thought to be dyinff ? 
Even here her hatred to Ohristiane cannot restrain itself. 




To the immense variety of his studies in Art and Science must now 
be added a fragmentary acquaintance with the philosophy of Kant. 
He had neither the patience nor the delight in metaphysical abstrac- 
tions requisite to enable him to master the Critique of Pure Reason ; 
but he read here and there in it^ as he read in Spinoza ; and was 
especially interested in the aesthetical portions of the Kritik der 
Urthdlshrafl, This was a means of bringing him nearer to Schiller, • 
who still felt the difference between them to be profound ; as we see 
in what he wrote to Komer : *' His philosophy draws too much of 
its material from the world of the senses, where I only draw from 
the soul. His mode of presentation is altogether too sensuous for 
me. But his spirit works and seeks in every direction, striving to 
create a whole, and that makes him in my eyes a great man.'' 

Remarkable indeed is the variety of his strivings. After com- 
pleting Tasso, we find him writing on the Roman Carnival, and on 
Imitation of Nature, and studying with strange ardour the mysteries 
of botany and optics. In poetry it is only necessary to name the 
Roman Elegies, to show what productivity in that direction he was 
capable of; although, in truth, his poetical activity was then in 
subordination to his activity in science. He was, socially, in an un- 
pleasant condition ; and, as he subsequently confessed, would never 
have been able to hold out, had it not been for his studies in 
Art and Nature. In aU times these were his refuge and consolation. 

^n Art, the world listened to him attentively. On Science, the 
world would not listen ; but turned away in silence, sometimes in 
derision. In both he was only an amateur. He had no executive 
ability in Painting or Sculpture to give authority to his opinions, 
yet his word was listened to with respect, often with enthusiasm.* 
But while artists and the public admitted that a man of genius might 

* Bauch, the sculptor, told me that among the influences of his life, he reckons 
the enthuBiasm which Goethe's remarks on Art excited in him. lifany others would 
doubtless say the same. 


epeak with some authority, althoagh an amateur, men of science 
were not willing that a man of genius should speak on thew topics, 
until he had passed College Examinations and received his diploma. 
The veriest blockhead who had received a diploma, considered him- 
self entitled to sneer at the poet who "dabbled in comparative 
anatomy/' Nevertheless that poet made discoveries and enunciated 
laws, the importance of which the professional sneerer could not 
even appreciate, so far did they transcend his knowledge. 

Professional men have a right to be suspicious of the amateur, for 
they know how arduous a training is required by Science. But while 
it is just that they should be svspicums, it is absurd for them to shut 
their eyes. When the amateur brings forward crudities, which he 
announces to be discoveries, their scorn may be legitimate enough ; 
but when he happens to bring forward a discovery, and they treat it 
as crudity, their scorn becomes self-stultification. I£ their pro- 
fessional training gives them superiority, that superiority should 
give them greater readiness of apprehension. The truth is, how- 
ever, that ordinaiy professional training gives them nothing of the 
sort. The mass of men, simply because they are a mass of men, 
receive with difficulty every new idea, unless it lies in the track of 
their own knowledge; and this opposition, which every new idea 
must vanquish, becomes tenfold greater when the idea is promul- 
gated from a source not in itself authoritative. 

But whence comes this authority? Prom the respect paid to 
genius and labour. The man of genius who is known to have de- 
voted much time to the consideration of any subject is justly sup- 
posed to be more competent to spec^ on that subject than one who 
has paid little attention to it. No amount of genius, no amount of 
study, can secure a man from his native fallibility ; but, after adequate 
study, there is a presumption in his favour ; and it is this presump- 
tion which constitutes authority. In the case of a poet who claims 
to be heard on a question of science, we naturally assume that he has 
not given the requisite labour; and on such topics genius without 
labour carries no authority. But if his researches show that the 
labour has been given, we must then cease to regard him as a poet, 
and admit him to the citizenship of science. No one disputes the 
immense glory of a HaUer, or a Redi, on the ground of their being 
poets. They were poets and scientific workers ; and so was Goethe. 
This would perhaps have been more readily acknowledged if he had 
walked in the weU-beaten tracks of scientific thought; but he 
opened new tracks, and those who might, perhaps, have accepted 
him as a colleague, were called upon to accept him as 4 gmde. 


Human nature could not stand this. The presumption against a 
poet was added to the presumption against novelty; singly each of 
these would have been an obstacle to a ready acceptance ; united 
they were insuperable. 

When Goethe wrote his exquisite little treatise on the MetaTnor- 
phases of Plants,^ he had to contend against the twofold obstacle of 
resistance to novelty, and his own reputation. Had an obscure pro- 
fessor published this work, its novelty would have sufficed to render 
it unacceptable ; but the obscurest name in Germany would have had 
a prestige greater than the name of the great poet. All novelty is 
prima fade suspicious ; none but the young welcome it ; for is not 
every new discovery a kind of slur on the sagacity of those who over- 
looked it ? And can novelty in science, promulgated by a poet, be 
worth the trouble of refutation ? The professional authorities de- 
cided that it could not. The publisher of Goethe^s works, having 
consulted a botanist, declined to undertake the printing of the 
Metamorphoses of Plants, The work was only printed at last be- 
cause an enterprising bookseller hoped thereby to gain the publica- 
tion of the other works. When it appeared, the pubhc saw in it a 
pretty piece of fancy, nothing more. Botanists shrugged their 
shoulders, and regretted the author had not reserved his imagination 
for his poems. No one believed in the theory, not even his at- 
tached friends. He had to wait many years before seeing it generally 
accepted, and it was then only accepted because great botanists had 
made it acceptable. A considerable authority on this matter has told 
us how long the theory was neglected, and how '^ depuis dix ans 
(written in 1838) il n'a peut-Stre pas ^t^ public un seul livre d'organo- 
graphie, ou de botanique descriptive, qui ne porte Pempreinte des 
id^es de cet ^rivain illustre.^t It was the fact of the theory being 
announced by the author of Werther which mainly retarded its ac- 
ceptance ; but the fact also that the theory was leagues in advance 
of the state of science in that day, must not be overlooked. For it 
is curious that the leading idea had been briefly yet explicitly an- 
nounced as early as 1759, by Caspar Priedrich Wolff, in his now de- 
servedly celebrated Theoria Generationis, and again, in 1 764, in his 
Theorie von der Oeneration.X I shall have to recur to Wolff; at 
present it need only be noted that even his professional authority and 
remarkable power could not secure the slightest attention from 

• He hajB also a poem on this subject, but it is scarcely more poetical. 

t AuousTK St. Hilaibb: Comptes Bendus des B6ance9 de VAcad,, vn, 437. See 
aJflO his work Morphologie V4g6tale, vol. i, p. 15. 

X I ba,Te only been able to procure this latter work, which is a more popular and ex- 
cursive exposition of the principles maintained in the Inaugural Dissertation of 1759. 


botanists for the morphological theory — a proof that the age was not 
ripe for its acceptance. 

A few of the eminent botanists began^ after the lapse of some 
years, to recognise the discovery. Thus Kieser declared it to be 
" certainly the vastest conception which vegetable physiology had for 
a long time known." Voigt expressed his irritation at the blindness 
of the botanists in refusing to accept it. Nees von Esenbeck, one of 
the greatest names in the science, wrote in 1818, " Theophrastus is 
the creator of modem botany. Goethe is its tender father, to whom 
it will raise looks full of love and gratitude, as soon as it grows out of 
its infancy, and acquires the sentiment which it owes to him who has 
raised it to so high a position.'^ And Sprengel, in his History of 
Botany, frequently mentions the theory. In one place he says, " The 
Metamorphoses had a meaning so profound, joined to such great sim- 
plicity, and was so fertile in consequences, that we must not be sur- 
prised if it stood in need of multiplied commentaries, and if many 
botanists failed to see its importance.'' 

It is now, and has been for some years, the custom to insert a 
chapter on Metamorphosis in every work which pretends to a high 
scientific character. 

^^ For a half century,'' says Goethe in the History of the Botanical 
Studies, '^I have been known as a poet in my own country and 
abroad. No one thinks of refusing me that talent. But it is not 
generally known, it has not been taken into consideration, that I have 
also occupied myself seriously through many years with the physical 
and physiological phenomena of Nature, observing them with the 
perseverance which passion alone can give. Thus when my essay on 
the development of plants, published nearly forty years before, 
fixed the attention of botanists in Switzerland and Prance, there 
seemed no expression for the astonishment at the fact of a poet thus 
going out of his route to make a discovery so important. It is to 
combat this false notion that I have written the history of my studies, 
to show that a great part of my life has been devoted to Natural 
History, for which I had a passion. It is by no sudden and unex- 
pected inspiration of genius, but through long prosecuted studies, I 
arrived at my results. I might doubtless have accepted the honour 
which men wished to pay my sagacity, and in secret rejoiced in it. 
But as it is equally pernicious in science to keep exclusively to facts, 
or exclusively to abstract theories, I have deemed it my duty to 
write, for serious men, the detailed history of my studies." 

He was not miuih hurt at the reception of his work. He knew how 
unwilling men are to accord praise to any one who aims at success in 


different spheres^ and fonnd it perfectly natural they should be so 
unwilling ; adding, however, that " an energetic nature feels itself 
brought into the world for Us own development, and not for the wp- 
probation of the public,'* 

We shall have occasion to consider his theory of Metamorphosis 
hereafter ; at present let us follow the biographical path, and note 
his confession that some of the happiest moments of his life were 
those devoted to his botanical studies. '^ They have acquired an in- 
estimable value in my eyes,'' he says, " because to them I owe the 
most beautiful of all the relations which my lucky star shone on. To 
them I owe the friendship of Schiller.'' 

Side by side with botanical and anatomical studies must be placed 
his optical studies. A more illustrative contrast can scarcely be 
found than is afforded by the history of his efforts in these two direc- 
tions. They throw light upon scientific Method, and they throw 
light on his scientific qualities and defects. If we have hitherto 
followed him with sympathy and admiration, we must now be pre- 
pared to follow him wi& that feeling of pain which rises at the sight 
of a great intellect struggling in a false direction. His botanical 
and anatomical studies were of that high character which makes one 
angry at their cold reception ; his optical studies were of a kind 
to puzzle and to irritate the professional pubhc. 

He has written the history of these studies also. Prom youth up- 
wards he had been prone to theorise on painting, led thereto, as he 
profoundly remarks, by the very absence of a talent for painting. It 
was not necessary for him to theorise on poetry ; he had within him 
the creative power. It was necessary for him to theorise on paint- 
ing, because he wanted " by reason and insight to fill up the de- 
ficiences of nature.^' In Italy these theories found abundant stimu- 
lus. With his painter friends he discussed colour and colouring, 
trying by various paradoxes to strike out a truth. The friends were 
all deplorably vague in their notions of colour. The critical treatises 
were equally vague. Nowhere could he find firm ground. He began 
to think of the matter from the opposite side— instead of trying to 
solve the artists' problem, he strove to solve the scientific problem. 
He asked himself. What is colour ? Men of science referred him to 
Newton ; but Newton gave him little help. Professor Biittner lent 
him some prisms and optical instruments, to try the prescribed ex- 
periments. He kept the prisms a long while, but made no use of 
them. Biittner wrote to him for his instruments ; Goethe neither 
sent them back, nor set to work with them. He delayed from day to 
day, occupied with other things. At last Biittner became uneasy. 


and sent for the prisms^ saying they should be lent again at a future 
period^ but that at any rate he must have them returned. Forced 
thus to part with them^ yet unwilling to send them back without 
making one effort^ he told the messenger to wait, and taking up a 
prism, looked through it at the white wall of his room, expecting to 
see the whole wall coloured in various tints, according to the New- 
tonian statement. To his astonishment, he saw nothing of the kind. 
He saw that the wall remained as white as before, and that only 
there, where an opaque interfered, could a more or less decisive 
colour be observed; that the window frames were most coloured, 
while the light grey heaven without showed no trace of colour. '' It 
needed very little meditation to discover that to produce colour a Ivnwl 
was necessary, and instinctively I exclaimed, 'Newton's theory is 
false !' '* There could be no thought of sending back the prisms at 
such a juncture ; so he wrote to Buttner begging for a longer loan, 
and set to work in real earnest. 

This was an unhappy commencement. He began with a false 
conception of Newton's theory, and thought he was overthrowing 
Newton when, in fact, he was combating his own error. The New- 
tonian theoiy does not say that a white surface seen through a prism 
appears coloured, but that it appears white, its edges only coloured. 
The fancied discovery of Newton's error stung him like a gadfly. He 
multiplied experiments, turned the subject incessantly over in his 
mind, and instead of going the simple way to work, and learning the 
a, b, c, of the science, tried the very longest of all short cuts, 
namely, experiment on insufficient knowledge. He made a white 
disc on a black groimd, and this, seen through the prism, gave him 
the spectrum, as in the Newtonian theory ; but he found that a black 
disc on a white ground also produced the same effect. '' K Light," 
said I to myself, " resolves itself into various colours in the first 
case ; then must Darkness also resolve itself into various colours 
in this second case." And thus he came to the conclusion that 
Colour is not contained in Light, but is the product of an inter- 
mingling of Light and Darkness. 

'* Having no experience in such matters, and not knowing the 
direction I ought to take, I addressed myself to a Physicist of re- 
pute, begging him to verify the results I had arrived at. I had 
already told him my doubts of the Newtonian hypothesis, and 
hoped to see him at once share my conviction. But how great was 
my surprise when he assured me that the phenomenon I spoke of 
was already known, and perfectly explained by the Newtonian 
theory. In vain I protested and combated his arguments, he held 


stolidly to the ci*edo, and told me to repeat my experiments in a 
camera obscura" 

Instead of quieting him, this rebuff only turned him away from all 
Physicists, that is, from all men who had special knowledge on the 
subject, and made him pursue in silence his own path. Friends were 
amused and interested by his experiments; their ignorance made 
them ready adepts. The Duchess Luise showed especial interest ; 
and to her he afterwards dedicated his Farbenleh/re. The Duke also 
shared the enthusiasm. The Duke of Gotha placed at his disposal a 
magnificent laboratory. Prince August sent him splendid prisms 
from England. Princes and poetasters believed he was going to de- 
throne Newton ; men of science only laughed at his pretension, and 
would not pay his theory the honour of a refutation. One fact he 
records as very noticeable, namely, that he could count Anatomists, 
Chemists, Litterateurs, and Philosophers, such as Loder, Sommering, 
Grottling, Wolff, Forster, Schelling (and, subsequently, Hegel), 
among his adherents ; but not one Physicist — hingegen Tceinen Phy- 
siker ! Nor does he, in recording this fact, see that it is destructive 
of his pretensions. 

What claim had Anatomists, Litterateurs, and philosophers to be 
heard in such a controversy ? Who would listen to a mathematician 
appealing to the testimony of zoologists against the whole body of 
mathematicians past and present ? There is this much, however, to 
be said for Goethe : he had already experienced neglect from profes- 
sional authorities when he discovered the intermaxillary bone, and 
when, in the Metamorphoses of Plants, he laid before them a real 
discovery, the truth of which ho profoundly felt. He was prepared 
therefore for a similar disregard of his claims when he not only pro- 
duced a new theory, but attacked the highest scientific authority. 
He considered that Newtonians looked on him as a natural enemy. 
He thought them steadfastly bent on maintaining established pre- 
judice. He thought they were a guild united against all innovation 
by common interest and common ignorance. Their opposition never 
made him pause; their arguments never made him swerve. He 
thought them profoundly in error when they imagined optics to be 
a part of mathematics ; and as he did not understand mathematics, 
he could not appreciate their arguments. 

His Beitrdge zur OptiJc, which appeared in 1791, was a sort of 
feeler thrown out to the great public. The public was utterly un- 
sympathising. The ignorant had no interest in such matters, and 
certainly would not address themselves to a poet for instruction ; the 
physicists saw that he was wrong. " Everywhere,^' he says, "I 


found incredulity as to my competence in such a matter ; everywhere 
a sort of repulsion at my efforts ; and the more learned and well- 
informed the men were, the more decided was their opposition/^ 

For years and years he continued his researches with a patience 
worthy of admiration. Opposition moved him not : it rather helped 
to increase his obstinacy. It extorted from him expressions of 
irritability and polemical bad taste, which astound us in one else- 
where so calm and tolerant. Perhaps, as Kingsley once suggested 
to me, he had a vague feeling that his conclusions were not sound, 
and felt the jealousy incident to imperfect conviction. Where his con- 
viction was perfect, he was calm. The neglect of his Metamorphoses 
— the denial of his discovery of the intermaxillary bone — the in- 
difference with which his essays on Comparative Anatomy were 
treated — ^all this he bore with philosophic serenity. But on the 
Farbenhhre he was always sensitive, and in old age ludicrously so. 
Eckermann records a curious conversation, wherein he brings for- 
ward a fact he has observed, which contradicts the theory of colours; 
and Goethe not only grows angry, but refuses to admit the fact. In 
this matter of Colour he showed himself morally weak, as well as 
intellectually weak. '' As for what I have done as a poet,^^ said the 
old man once, " I take no pride in it whatever. Excellent poets 
have lived at the same time with myself; more excellent poets have 
lived before me, and will come after me. But that in my century I 
am the only person who knows the truth in the difficult science of 
colours — of that, I say, I am not a little proud.^' 

The reader will doubtless be curious to know something of this 
Theory of Colours ; and although it must necessarily appear greatly 
to its disadvantage in the brief abstract for which alone I can find 
space, an abstract without the numerous illustrations and experi- 
ments which give the theory a plausible aspect, yet the kernel of 
the matter will appear. 

The Newtonian theory is that white light is composed of the seven 
prismatic colours, i.e., rays having different degrees of refrangibility. 
Goethe says it is not composed at all, but is the simplest and most 
homogeneous thing we know.* It is absurd to call it composed of 
colours, for every light which has taken a colour is darker than colour- 
less light. Brightness cannot therefore be a compound of darkness. 
There are but two pure colours, blue and yellow, both of which have 

• "Let US thank the gods," exdaims Schelling, "that they have emancipated us 
from the Newtonian spectrum (spectrum truly !) of composed light. We owe this to 
the genius to whom our debt is already so large." Zeitsehrift,fur speeul. Philoa., ii, 
p. 60. To the same effect Hegel in his Encyclopddie der philos. WUsenachaften. 


a tendency to become red, throagh violet and orange; there are also 
two mixtures, green and pwrpU, Every other colour is a degree of 
one of these, or is impure. Colours originate in the modification of 
Light by outward circumstances. They are not developed <mt of 
Light, but hy it. For the phenomenon of Colour, there is demanded 
Light and Darkness. Nearest the Light appears a colour we name 
yellow ; nearest the Darkness, a colour we name hhie. Mix these 
two and you have green. 

Starting from the fundamental error of the simplicity of Light, 
Ooethe undertakes to explain aQ the phenomena of Colour, by means 
of what he calls the Opaquee — ^the media. He maintains that on 
the one hand there is Light, and on the other Darkness ; if a semi- 
transparent medium be brought between the two, from these con- 
trasts and this medium. Colours are developed, contrasted in like 
manner, but soon through a reciprocal relation tending to a point of 

The highest degree of Light seen through a medium very slightly 
thickened appears yellow. If the density of the medium be in- 
creased, or if its volume become greater, the light will gradually 
assume a yellow-red, which deepens at last to a ruby. 

The highest degree of Darkness seen through a semi-transparent 
medium, which is itself illuminated by a light striking on it, gives a 
blvs colour; which becomes paler as the density of the medium is 
increased ; but on the contrary becomes darker and deeper as the 
medium becomes more transparent. In the least degree of dimness 
short of absolute transparency, the deep blv£ becomes the most 
beautiful violet. 

There are many interesting facts adduced in illustration. Thus, 
smoke appears yellow or red before a light ground, blue before a 
dark ground ; the blue colour, at the under part of a candle-flame, 
is also a case of blue seen opposite a dark ground. Light trans- 
mitted through the air is yellow, orange or red, according to the 
density of the air ; Darkness transmitted through the air is blue, as 
is the case of the sky, or distant mountains. 

He tells a curious anecdote in illustration of this blueness of dark- 
ness. A painter had an old portrait of a theologian to clean ; the 
wet sponge passing over the black velvet dress, suddenly changed it 
to a light blue plush. Puzzled at this truly remarkable phenomenon, 
and not understanding how light blue could be the ground of deep 
black, he was in great grief at the thought of having thus ruined 
the picture. The next morning, to his joy, he found the black vel- 
vet had resumed its pristine splendour. To satisfy his curiosity, he 

17880 ^^^ POET AS A MAN OP SCIENCE, 335 

could not refrain from wetting a comer once more^ and again lie saw 
the hhbe appear. Goethe was informed of the phenomenon^ which 
was once more produced, in his presence. '^I explained it,'' he 
says, '' by my doctrine of the semi-opaque medium. The original 
painter, in order to give additional depth to his black, may have 
passed some particular varnish over it ; on being washed, this var- 
nish imbibed some moisture, and hence became semi-opaque, 
in consequence of which the hldck beneath immediately ap- 
peared hVae.'' The explanation is very ingenious; nor does the 
Edinburgh reviewer's answer seem to meet the question, when he 
says:* '' As there is no gum or resin, or varnish of any kind that 
possesses the property of yielding blue or any other colour by being 
wetted, we have no doubt the varnish had been worn off, or else the 
picture never had been varnished." It is not a question of wetted 
varnish yielding blue, but of wetted varnish furnishing the medium 
through which black appears blue. His own explanation however 
is probably correct. He assumes that there was no varnish, and that 
the particles of bodies which produce blackness, on the usual theory, 
are smaller than those which produce blue or any other colour; and 
if we increase the size of the particles which produce blackness by 
the smallest quantity, they yield the ihie colour described by Goethe. 
The action of the water swelled them a little, and thus gave them 
the size which fitted them to reflect hlue rays. 

The theory loses much of its seductive plausibility when thus 
reduced to its simplest expression. Let us, however, do the same 
for the Newtonian theory, and then estimate their comparative 
value. Newton assumes that white Light is a compound ; and he 
proves this assumption by decomposing a beam of light into its 
elements. These elements are rays, having different degrees of re- 
frangibility, separable from each other by different media. Each ray 
produces its individual colour. Not only will the beam of white 
Light in passing through a prism be separated into its constituent 
rays, or colours, but these rays may be again collected by a large 
lens, and, in being thus brought together, again re-appear as white 
Light. There are few theories in science which present a more 
satisfactory union of logic and experiment. 

It cannot be denied that Goethe's theory is also extremely plau- 
sible ; and he has supported it with so many accurate experiments 
and admirable observations, that to this day it has not only fonnd 
ardent advocates, even among men of science, though these are 
few, but has very sorely perplexed many Newtonians, who, relying 
• Edin. Bw. Oct 1840, p. 117. 


on the mathematical accuracy of their own theory,have contemptuously 
dismissed Goethe^s speculation instead of victoriously refuting it. 
His obstinacy was excusable, since beUeving himself to be in the 
right he challenged refutation, and no one picked up his gauntlet. 
They declined in contempt; he interpreted it as bigotry. He 
tried to get the French Academy to make a report on his work. 
This honour was withheld : Cuvier disdainfully declaring that such 
a work was not one to occupy an Academy ; Delambre answering all 
solicitations with this phrase : *' Des observations, des experiences, 
et surijout ne commen9ons pas par attaquer Newton.^' As if the 
Farhenlehre were not founded on observations and experiments ! 
as if the glory of Newton were to stand inviolate before all things ! 
Goethe might well resent such treatment. If he was wrong in his 
theory, if his experiments were incomplete, why were these errors not 
pointed out? To contradict Newton might offer a presumption 
against the theory ; but Newtonians were called upon not to explain 
the contradiction between Goethe and Newton, which was vociferously 
announced, but the contradiction between Goethe and Truth, which 
they contemptuously asserted. 

As this is a branch of science in which I can pretend to no com- 
petence, and as I have met with no decisive refutation of Goethe 
which can be quoted here, I should consider it sufficient to say 
that the fact of the vast majority of physicists in Europe refusing to 
pay any attention to the Farhenlehre, although not in itself more 
than a presumption against that theory, is nevertheless a presump- 
tion so very strong as only to be set aside by stringently coercive 
evidence. Looking at the Farhenlehre from the impartial, if imper- 
. feet, point of view of an outsider, I should say that not only has 
Goethe manifestly misunderstood Newton, but has presented a 
theory which is based on a radical mistake. The mistake is that of 
treating Darkness as a positive quality, rather than as a simple 
negation of Light. By means of this Darkness, as a co-operating 
agent with Light, colours are said to arise. Stripped of all the am- 
biguities of language, the theory affirms that Light is itself perfectly 
colourless until mingled with various degrees of Nothing — or, in 
other words, until it suffers various diminutions; and with each 
diminution the colours become of a deeper hue. This may seem too 
preposterous for belief; yet what is Darkness but the negation of 
Light ? It is true that Goethe has in one place named Darkness, in 
the abstract, a pure negation ; but it is not less true that in the con- 
struction of his theory. Darkness plays the part of a positive ; and 
necessarily so ; for if we once conceive it as a simple negative, the 


theory falls to the ground. Light being assumed as colourless^ no 
diminution of the colourless can give colours. Unless Darkness be 
positive, — co-operative, — ^we are left to seek the elements of colour 
in Light ; and this is precisely where the Newtonian theory finds it. 

It was an old idea that the different confines of shadow variously 
modify light, producing various colours. This Newton has elaborately 
refuted {Optics , part ii, book i), proving by simple experiments that 
all colours show themselves indifferently in the confines of shadow ; 
and that when rays which differ in refrangibiHty are separated from 
one another, and any one is considered apart, " the colour of the 
light which it composes cannot be changed by any refraction or re- 
flection whatever, as it ought to be were colours nothing else than 
modifications of light caused by refractions, reflexions, and shadows^'. 

It should be emphatically stated that the highest physical autho- 
rities have borne testimony to the accuracy of Goethe^s facts ; and 
as these facts are exceedingly numerous, and often highly important, 
the value of his optical studies must be estimated as considerable. 
He was a man of genius, and he laboured with the passionate 
patience of genius. But in awarding our admiration to the man, we 
may withhold assent from his theory. That which has exasperated 
men of science, and caused them to speak slightingly of his labours, 
is the bitterly polemical tone of contempt with which he announced 
a discovery which they could not recognise as true. He was aggres- 
sive and weak. He vociferated that Newton was in error ; and a 
casual glance at his supposed detection of the error discovered a 
fundamental misconception. If we stand aloof from these heats of 
personal conflict, and regard the subject with a calmer eye, we shall 
see that the question simply reduces itself to this : which of the two 
theories offers the fullest and clearest explanation of the facts ? 

Light and Colours are, like Sound and Tones, to be viewed as 
objective phenomena, related to certain external conditions ; or as 
subjective phenomena, related to certain sensations. Before asking 
What is Light or Sound ? we must consider whether we seek the 
objective fact, or the subjective sensation. Every one admits that, 
apart from a sensitive organism, the objective phenomena of Light 
and Sound exist, although not as the Light and Sound known in oup 
sensations. But as we can only know them through our sensations, 
it seems eminently philosophical to begin our study with these. 
And this Goethe has done. He first unfolds the laws of physiological 
colours, i. e.y the modifications of the retina ; and his immense ser- 
vices in this direction have been cordially recognised by Physiologists. 
Since, however, wd can never learn thus what are the external conm 


ditions of the phenomena, we liaye to seek in objectiye facts sneh an 
explanation as will best guide us. The assumption of rays having 
different degrees of refrangibility may one day turn out to be erro- 
neous ; but it is an assumption which colligates the facts better than 
any other hitherto propounded, and therefore it is accepted. By 
regarding both Sound and Light as produced from waves of an 
elastic medium, acoustic and optic phenomena are reducible to cal- 
culation. It is true they thus incur Goethe's reproach of ceasing to 
be concrete objects to the mind, and becoming mathematical sym- 
bols ; but this is the very ambition of scientific research : a point 
to which I shall presently return. Let us compare the objective and 
subjective facts. 

If an elastic rod be made to vibrate, the ear perceives nothing 
until the vibrations reach eight in a second, at which point the 
lowest tone becomes audible ; if the rapidity of the vibrations be now 
constantly accelerated, tones higher and higher in the scale become 
audible, till the vibrations reach 24,000 in a second, at which point 
the ear again fails to detect any sound. In like manner, it is calcu- 
lated that when vibrations reach 488 billions in a second. Light, or 
rather the red ray, begins to manifest itself to the retina; with 
increasing rapidity of vibration, the colours pass into orange, yellow, 
green, blue, and violet, till 727 bilhons are reached, at which point 
no light is perceptible. Here chemical action begins ; and the rays 
are caUed chemical rays ; as at the other end of the spectrum they 
are called heat rays. These are objective conditions which have been 
rigorously ascertained : and most important results have been arrived 
at through them. 

The subjective facts according to Groethe lead to the belief that 
Tones are the product of Sound and Silence, as Colours are of Light 
and Darkness. Sound is made various (in tones) by various inter- 
mixtures with Silence. Descending from the highest audible note 
there is a gradual retardation of the vibrations, caused by the gradual 
encroachments of Silence, until at length Silence predominates and no 
Sound is heard. Suppose this hypothesis granted, we shall still have 
to ask what are the conditions of this Silence ? If these are retardations 
of vibration, we may dispense with the hypothetical Silence. By 
similar reasoning we dispense with the hypothetical Darkness. 

The assumption of different rays of unequal refrangibility is not 
only supported by the prismatic decomposition and recomposition of 
light, but also finds confirmation in the law of Eefraction discovered 
by SnelUus. And the consequence drawn from it, namely, that the 
relation of the sine of incidence, though constant for each colour, 


varies in tlie different colours of the spectrum, brings the whole ques- 
tion within the domain of mathematical calculation. The phenomena 
cease to be qualitative only, and become quantitative : they are 
measurable, and are measured. On Goethe^s theory, granting its 
truth, the phenomena are not measurable; 'and whoever glances 
into a modem work on Optics will see that the precision and extent 
to which calculation has been carried, are in themselves sufficient 
grounds for assigning the preference to the theory which admits 
such calculation. For as Copernicus profoundly says, " It is by no 
means necessary that hypotheses should be true, nor even seem 
true ; it is enough if they reconcile calculation with observations/*^ 

Goethe's want of acquaintance with Mathematics and with the 
Methods of Physical Science prevented his understanding the defect 
in his own theory, and the manifest superiority of the theory which 
he attacked. He opposed every mathematical treatment of the sub- 
ject as mischievous ; and Hegel, who has sho¥ni himself still more 
opposed to the Methods of science, applauds him on this very point. 

'' I raised the whole school of Mathematicians against me/' says 
Goethe, " and people were greatly amazed that one who had no in- 
sight into Mathematics could venture to contradict Newton. For 
that Physics could exist independently of Mathematics no one seemed 
to ha/ve the slightest suspicion,^* Nor has that suspicion gained yet 
any ground with men in the least conversant with Physics, however 
necessary it may sometimes have been to protest against too exclu- 
sive an employment of Mathematics. But the misconception which 
lies at the bottom of Gt)ethe's polemics was a very natural one to a 
poet never trained in Mathematical or Experimental science, and 
unaware of the peculiar position occupied by Mathematics as the 
great Instrument of research. In his essay, JJeher Mathematik und 
deren Misbrau^hf-f he compares the philosopher employing such an 
instrument to a man who should invent a machine for drawing a cork^ 
an operation which two arms and hands very easily effect. 

To make his error intelligible, let us suppose a man of great in- 
tellectual acuteness and energy suddenly to light upon the idea that 
our chemical theories were vitiated by a false basis — that the atomic 
theory was not only an hypothesis, but an hypothesis which mis- 
represented the order of Nature ; there being, in truth, none of the 
quantitative relations as are presupposed in that theory. Imagine 
the reformer setting to work, multiplying experiments, inventing 
explanations, disregarding all that the accumulated experience of 

* C0PEBNICU8 : De BevoluHanibus Orhium Calesiiwn, 1566. 
t Werke, XL, p. 468. 



ages ha4 stored np on this very matter^ and above all despising^ as 
useless or worse, the very Instrument which rescues Chemistry from 
rough guess-work, and elevates it into the possibility of a science — 
the Instrument known as the Balance. It is probable that our re- 
former would make many curious observations, some of them quite 
new. It is probable that he would in many directions stimulate re- 
search. But it is certain that he would be hopelessly wrong in 
his theories, for he would necessarily be imperfect in his data. 
Without the delicate control of the Balance, chemical experiment 
can never become quantitative ; and without quantitative knowledge 
there can be no chemical science strictly so called, but only qualito' 
tive, i. e. approximative knowledge. No amount of observation will 
render observation precise unless it can be measured. No force of 
intellect will supply the place of an Instrument. You may watch 
falling bodies for an eternity, but without Mathematics mere watch- 
ing will yield no law of gravitation. You may mix acids and 
alkalis together with prodigality, but no amount of experiment 
will yield the secret of their composition, if you have flung away 
the Balance. 

Goethe flung away the Balance. Hegel boldly says this is Goethe's 
merit — das Prisma heruntergebracht zu haben. He praises the ^' pure 
sense of Nature,'^ which in the poet rebelled against Newton's " bar-» 
barism of Reflection." To the same efiect Schelling, who does not 
hesitate to choose it as the very ground for proclaiming Goethe's 
superiority over the Newtonians, that " instead of the artifically con- 
fused and disfiguring experiments of the Newtonians, he places the 
purest, simplest verdicts of Nature herself before us ;" he adds, "it 
is not surprising that the blind and slavish followers of Newton should 
oppose researches which prove that precisely the very section of 
Physics, in which up to this time they have imagined the most posi- 
tive, nay almost geometric evidence, to be on their side, is based on 
a fundamental error."* 

This point of Method, if properly examined, will help to elucidate 
the whole question of Goethe's aptitude for dealing with physical 
science. The native direction of his mind is visible in his optical 
studies as decisively as in his poetry ; that direction was towards the 
cancrete phenomenon, not towards abstractions. He desired to ex- 
plain the phenomena of colour, and in Mathematics these phenomena 
disappear; that is to say, the very thin-g to be studied is hurried out 
of sight and masked by abstractions. This was utterly repugnant to 
his mode of conceiving Nature. The marvellous phenomena of 

• ScHKLLiNQ : Zeitschrifi fur spekulative Philoa., n, p. 60. 


polarised light in the hands of Mathematicians excited his boundless 
scorn. " One knows not,^' he says, " whether a body or a mere ruin 
lies buried under those formulas."* The name of Biot threw him 
into a rage; and he was continually laughing at the Newtonians 
about their Prisms and Spectra, as if Newtonians were pedants 
who preferred their dusky rooms to the free breath of heaven. He 
always spoke of observations made in his garden, or with a simple 
prism in the sunlight, as if the natural and simple Method were 
much more certain than the artificial Method of Science. In this he 
betrayed his misapprehension of Method. He thought that Nature 
revealed herself to the patient observer — 

Und was de deinem Qeist nicht offenbajren mag. 

Das zwingst du ihr nicht ab mit Hebeln and mit Scbrauben. 

*' And what she does not reveal to the Mind will not be extorted 
from her by Levers and Screws." Hence his failure ; hence also his 
success ; for we must not forget that if as a contribution to Optics 
his Farbenlehre be questionable, as a contribution to the knowledge 
of colour demanded by Artists it is very valuable. Painters have re- 
peatedly acknowledged the advantage they have derived from it ; and 
I remember hearing Riedel, at Rome, express the most unbounded 
enthusiasm for it ; averring that, as a colourist, he had learned more 
from the Farbenlehre, than from all the other teachers and books he 
had ever known. To artists and physiologists — i, e. to those who 
are mainly concerned with the phenomena of colour as perceptions, 
and who demand qualitative rather than quantitative knowledge — ^his 
labours have a high value ; and even physicists must admit, that 
however erroneous the theory and imperfect the method he has 
adopted, stiU the immense accumulation and systematisation of facts, 
and the ingenuity with which he explains them, deserve serious re- 
spect. As Bacon felicitously says, a tortoise on the right path will 
beat a racer on the wrong path ; and if it be true that Goethe was on 
the wrong {)ath, it is not less true that he shows the thews and 
sinews of a racer. 

It is with other feelings that we contemplate him labouring in the 
organic sciences. There the native tendencies of his mind and the 
acquired tendencies of education better fitted him for success. 
Biology has peculiar fascinations for the poetical mind, and has 
seduced several poets to become physiologists. Mathematics are 
not required. Concrete observations furnish the materials for a keen 
and comprehensive comparison. 

Let it be distinctly understood, and that not on the testimony of 

• Werke, XL, 473. 


the admiring biograplieT^ bat on some of the highest scientific testi- 
monies in Europe,'*' that in the organic sciences Gloethe holds an 
eminent place-— eminent not because of his rank as a poet, but in 
spite of it. Let it be understood that in these sciences he is not to 
be treated as a poet, a facile amateur, but as a thinker who, having 
mastered sufficient knowledge to render his path secure, gave an 
impulse to the minds of contemporaries and successors, which is not 
even yet arrested. 

G-oethe was a thinker in science, a manipulator of scientific ideas. 
He was not one of those laborious and meritorious workers who with 
microscope and scalpel painfully collect the materials from which 
Science emerges. He worked, too, in. his way, and everywhere 
sought in the order of nature for verification of the ideas which he 
had conceived d priori. Do not however mistake him for a meta- 
pliysician. He was a positive thinker on the d priori Method ; a 
Method vicious only when the seeker rests contented with his own 
assumptions, or seeks only a partial hasty confrontation with facts — 
what Bacon calls notiones temeri d rebus ahstractas ; a Method 
eminently philosophic when it merely goes before the facts, anticipa- 
ting what will be the tardy conclusions of experience. The d priori 
Method is a bright and brilliant instrument. It will cut the fingers 
when clumsily handled. It will cut deep into the truth if rightly 
used ; as it was by Kepler and Groethe, who looked upon nature from 
the heights, but having seen or fancied they saw something in the 
plains, at once descended to verify the truth of their observation. 

We will glance at his achievements in this field. The intermax- 
illary bone'*' was long a bone of contention among anatomists. 
Yesalius — one of the grandest and boldest of the early pioneers 
who wrote against Gralen, as the philosophers wrote against Aristotle 
•—declared, and with justice, that Gralen's anatomy was not founded 
on the dissection of the hwma/n, body, but on that of animals. A 
proof, said he, is that " Galen indicates a separate bone connected 
with the maxillary by sutures j a bone which, as every anatomist 
can satisfy himself, exists only in animals.'^ The Galenists were in 

* In the first edition of this work several passages were quoted in support of the 
assertion in the text ; but one effect of this chapter has been to render such evi- 
dence superfluous, Goethe's position in science becoming daily more widely recog- 
nised. The following references are therefore all that need now be given : Augusts 
St. Hilaibb : MorpKologie V4g4tale, i, p. 16. Osgab Schxidt : Ooetht^t VerhaUnitM 
tu den organisehen WUsefiachaften, p. 10. Johanmus Muelleb : Ueber phanUutische 
SenehUer8eheimmgen,-p. 104. Cxjtoib : HUtoire des Sciences Naturelles, iv, p. 316. 
IsiDOBB, Gboftbot Qt. Hilaibb : EssaU de Zoologie g^irale, p. 139. Owen: 
Archetype and J^omologies of the Skeleton, p. 8. Helmholtz : AUgemeine Monats- 
9chr\ft, Uaj 186S. Yibohow: Goethe aU Naturf or acher, 

t It is the centre bone of the upper jaw — ^that which contains the incisor teeth. 


arms. They could bring no fact in evidence, but that was of very 
little consequence ; if facts were deficient, was not hypothesis always 
ready ? Sylvius, for example, boldly said that man had foinnerly an 
intermaxillary bone. If he has it no longer, he oiight to have it. 
It is luxury, it is sensuality which has gradually deprived man of 
this bone.* What has not luxury been made to answer for ! The 
dispute was carried down through centuries, no one attempting to 
demonstrate anatomically the existence of the bone. Camper ac- 
tually raised this presumed absence of the bone into the one dis- 
tinguishing mark separating man &om the ape; which is doubly 
unfortunate, for in the first place the bone is not absent in man, and 
secondly in as far as it can be considered absent in man it is equally 
absent in the chimpanzee, the highest of the apes.f Thus was ana- 
tomy a treacherous ally in this question, although Camper knew not 
how treacherous. 

This slight historical sketch will serve to show that the discovery, 
if unimportant, was at least far from easy ; indeed so little did it 
lie in the track of general knowledge, that it was at first received 
with contemptuous disbeUef, even by men so eminent as Blumen- 
bach,{ and it was forty years gaining general acceptance, although 
Loder, Spix, and Sommering at once recognised it. Camper, to 
whom Goethe sent the manuscript, found that it w€W3 tris il4gami, 
admirablement bien ^crit, c^est d dire d'une mam admirable, but 
thought a better Latin style desirable. Goethe began to despise 
the pedantry of professional men who would deny the testimony of 
their five senses in favour of an old doctrine ; and he admirably says, 
'' the phrases men are accustomed to repeat incessantly end by be* 
coming convictions, amd ossify the organs of intelligence J' ^ 

* This same Sylyius it was who replied to Yesalias that 6^en was not wrong 
when he described man as having seven bones in his sternum (there are only three) : 
"for," said he, "in ancient times the robust chests of heroes might very weU have 
had more bones than our degenerate day can boast." It is impossible to decide 
upon what might have been ; but the mummies are ancient enough, and they have 
no more bones than we. 

t Blumenbaoh had already noted that in some young apes and baboons no trace 
was discoverable of the bone. 

X See his Comparative Anatomy, translated by Lawrence ; and the translator's 
note, p. 60. 

§ Since the first edition of this work was published, I have come upon a piquant 


illustration of the not very honourable tendency in men to plume themselves on 
the knowledge of a discovery which they had formerly rqected. Viog d'Aztb : 
IHscoiM's 8urVAnatomie {(Euvres, iv, 169), mentioning his discovery of the inter- 
maxillary, adds, " J'ai appris de M. Camper, dans son dernier voyage k Paris, que 
cet 0$ lui est eonnu depuis trda long tempe." Now this same Camper, on receiving 
the anonymous dissertation in which Goethe propounded the discovery, said, " Je 
dois r^-examiner tout cela" ; but on learning that Gh)ethe was the author, he wrote 
to Merck that he had " convinced himself that the bone did not exist" (see Yibchow : 
Ooethe aXs NaturforscTier, p. 79} ; yet no sooner does a great anatomist tell him that 
the bone exists, than he complacently declares " I have known it a long while." 



The most remarkable point in this discovery is less the discovery 
than the Method which led to it. The intermaxiQary bone in ani- 
mals contains the incisor teeth. Man has incisor teeth ; and Goethe^ 
fully impressed with the conviction that there was Unity in Nature, 
boldly said, if man has the teeth in common with animals, he must 
have the bone in common with animals. Anatomists, lost in details, 
and wanting that fundamental conception which now underlies all 
philosophical anatomy, saw no abstract necessity for such identity of 
composition ; the more so, because evidence seemed wholly against it» 
But Goethe was not only guided by the true philosophic conception, 
he was also instinctively led to the true Method of demonstration, 
namely, Comparison of the various modifications which this bone 
underwent in the animal series. This Method has now become the 
Method ; and we require to throw ourselves into the historical posi- 
tion to appreciate its novelty, at the time he employed it. He found 
on comparison that the bone varied with the nutrition of the animal, 
and the size of its teeth. He found, moreover, that in some animals 
the bone was not separated from the jaw ; and that in children the 
sutures were traceable. He admitted that seen from the front no 
trace of the sutures was visible, but on the interior there were unmis- 
takeable traces. Examination of the foetal skull has since set the 
point beyond dispute. I have seen one where the bone was distinctly 
separated ; and I possess a skull, the ossification of which is far 
advanced at the parietal sutures, yet internally faint traces of the 
intermaxillary are visible.* 

Goethe made his discovery in 1784, and communicated it to several 
anatomists. Loder mentions it in his Compendium in 1787. 

Respecting Goethe's claim to the honour of this discovery, I have 
recently discovered a fact which is of great or small significance 
according to the views we hold respecting such claims ; namely, 
whether the clear enunciation of an idea, though never carried out 
in detail, sufBces to give priority ; or whether, in the words of 
Owen,t " He becomes the true discoverer who estabHshes the truth : 
and the sign of the proof is the general acceptance. Whoever, there- 
fore, resumes the investigation of a neglected or repudiated doctrine, 
elicits its true demonstration, and discovers and explains the nature 
of the errors which have led to its tacit or declared rejection, may 
calmly and confidently await the acknowledgments of his rights in 

• These might be considered abnormal cases. But M. J. Weber haa devised a 
method of treating the skull with dilute nitric add, which makes the separation of 
the bones perfect. Wroriep's Notizen, 1828, bd. 19, 282. Vibchow : 1. c, p. 80. 

t OwBN : Hofnologie$ of the Skeleton, p. 76. Comp. also Malpiohi : Cfeera PoH- 
^uma, 1697, p. 5. 


its discovery.'* If we hold the former view, we must assign the 
discovery of the intermaxillary in man to Vicq d'Azyr ; if we hold 
the latter, to Goethe. In the TraiU d'Anatomie et de Physiologie, 
which the brilUant anatomist published in 1786, we not only find 
him insisting on the then novel idea of an uniform plan in the struc- 
ture of organic beings, according to which nature " semble op^rer 
toujours d'apr^s un modele primitif et general dont elle ne s'^carte 
qu'4 regret et dont on rencontre partout des traces ;'** but we find 
this explicit illustration given among others : '^ Pent on s'y refuser 
enfin (i, e., to admit the traces of a general plan) en comparant les 
OS maxillaires ant^rieurs que j'appeUe indsifs dans les quadrup^des, 
avec cette piece osseuse qui soutient les dents incisives sup^rieurs 
dans Phomme, ou elle est s^par^e de I'os maxillaire par une petite 
fSlure tr^s remarquable dans les foetus, a peine visible dans les 
adultes, et dont personne n'avoit connu I'usage.'* In a subsequent 
passage of the second Discours he says : ^" Toutes ces dents sent 
soutenues dans la m&choire ant^rieure par un os que j'ai d^crit sous 
le nom d'incisif ou labial, que quelques-uns appellent intermaxillaire, 
que Von k d^couvert depuis peu dans les morses, et dontfai reconnu 
les traces dans lea os ma^llaires svp^rieurs dufcei/us humain"^ 

The reader wiU remark that this is not simply the announcement 
of the fact, but is adduced in illustration of the very same doctrine 
which Goethe invoked. The Traits d'Anatomie, as we have seen, 
was published in 1786 ; that is to say, two years after Goethe had 
made his discovery ; and Sommering, in writing to Merck, J says : 
'' I have expressed my opinion on Yicq d'Azyr's work in the Getting.' 
Qelehrt, Anzeig, It is the best we have. But as far as the work has 
yet gone Goethe is not mentioned in it.'* From which it may be 
inferred that Sommering suppoAd Vicq d'Azyr to have been ac- 
quainted with Goethe's contemporary labours ; but against such a 
supposition we must remember that, if Germany took note of what 
was passing in France, discoveries made in Germany travelled with 
great slowness across the Rhine ; and in illustration of this slowness 
we may note that Geoffipoy St. Hilaire, who was several years after- 
wards nobly working out conceptions of Philosophical Anatomy in a 
spirit so identical with that of Goethe, was utterly unconscious of 
the existence of a predecessor, and noticing the monograph of G. 
Fischer, said, " GoitJies aurait le premier d^couvert Tinterpari^tal 
dans quelques rongeurs, et se serait content^ d'en faire mention par 

• Vicq d'Aztb, (Ewores, rv, p. 26. The work is there called DiBctywrs aur VAna- 

t Ibid, p. 169. t ^^^fi ofi Merck, p. 493. 


une note manuscrite snr un exemplaire d'un traits d'anatomie com« 

But the conclnsive point is this : although the Traits d' Anatomic 
did not appear till 1786, the discovery of the intermaarillaiy was pub- 
lished by Vicq d'Azyr in the Acaddmie des Sciences for 1779,t five 
years before Goethe announced his discovery to Herder. The ques- 
tion of priority is therefore settled. The Frenchman had no need 
of any acquaintance with what the German poet had worked out ; 
and Merck^s astonishment at finding Goethe's '' socalled discovery 
accepted by Vicq d'Azyr^' was wholly misplaced; but can we be 
equally sure that Goethe was altogether ignorant of his predecessor f 
I think he was. The sudden enthusiasm, the laborious investiga- 
tion, the jubilate of triumph, are evidences that if ever his prede- 
cessor's discovery had come under his notice (which is highty im- 
probable) it was completely forgotten; and we may judge how 
completely Vicq d'Azyr's announcement had been without echo in 
the scientific world, from the fact that the three most illustriouB 
men of the day, Camper, Blumenbach, and Sommering, knew nothing 
of it, and denied the existence of the bone Goethe claimed to have 
discovered. Thus, in assigning priority to Vicq d'Azyr, we by no 
means diminish Goethe's merit. He it was who thoroughly worked 
out the discovery ; he it was who gave it a fixed and definite place 
in science ; he it is who is always named as the discoverer. 

The only importance of this discovery is the philosophic Method 
which it illustrates ; the firm belief it implies that all organisms are 
constructed on an uniform plan, and that Comparative Anatomy is 
only valid because such a plan is traceable. In our day it seems an 
easy conception. We are so accustomed to consider all the variations 
in organic structures as modifications of a type, that we can hardly 
realise to ourselves any other conception. That it was by no means 
an obvious idea, nor one easy to apply, may be seen in two brilliant 
applications — the metamorphosis of plants, and the vertebral theory 
of the skull. 

Place a fiower in the hands of the cleverest man of your acquaint- 
ance, providing always he has not read modem works of science, 
and assure him that leaf, calyx, corolla, bud, pistil, and stamen, 
differing as they do in colour and in form, are nevertheless all 

* Philoaophie Anatomique, n, p. 55. Geoffiroy was afterwards very proud to hare 
the soffitiige of Oaethea ; and Geoffiro/s son has spoken most hononraoly of the co- 
incidence between the specnlationB of his father and the poet. 

t In the first edition X stated that "from a note to BLUicfiNBACH's ComptfraHve 
Anatomy (p. 19), it seems as if Vicq d'Azyr had made this observation as early as 
1780." The date in the text is given by Vicq d'Azyr himself. (Euvres, iv, 159. 


modified leaves ; assure him that flower and fruit are bnt modifications 
of one typical form^ which is the leaf; and if he has any confidence 
in your knowledge he may accept the statement^ but assuredly it will 
seem to him a most incomprehensible paradox. Place him before 
a human skeleton^ and^ calling his attention to its manifold forms^ 
assure him that every bone is either a vertebra, or the appendage to 
a vertebra, and that the skull is a congeries of vertebrsD under 
various modifications; he will, as before, accept your statement, 
perhaps ; but he will, as before, think it one of the refinements of 
transcendental speculation to be arrived at only by philosophers; 
Yet both of these astounding propositions are first principles in 
Morphology ; and in the History of Science both of these proposi- 
tions are to be traced to Goethe. Botanists and anatomists have, 
of course, greatly modified the views he promulgated, and have sub- 
stituted views nearer and nearer the truth, without yet being quite 
at one. But he gave the impulse to their efforts. 

While botanists and anatomists were occupied in analysis, striving 
to distinguish separate parts, and give them distinct names, his 
poetical and philosophic mind urged him to seek the supreme syn- 
thesis, and reduce all diversities to a higher unity. In his poem 
addressed to Christiane he says : 

Thou, my love, art perplexed with the endless seeming confosion 
Of the Inxoriant wealth which in the garden is spread ; 
Name upon name thou hearest, and in thy dissatisfied hearing. 
With a barbarian noise one diires another aJong. 
All the forms resemble, yet none is the same as another ; 
Thns the whole of the throng points at a deep-hidden law.* 

To prove this identity was no easy task. He imagined an ideal 
typical plant (JJrpflanze) ^ of which all actual plants were the mani- 
fold realisations ; and this I cannot but agree with Schleiden in con- 
sidering a conception at once misleading and infelicitous. He was 
happier in the conception of all the various organs of the plant as 
modifications of one fundamental type ; this type he names the Leaf. 
Not that we are to understand the metamorphosis of plants to be 
analogous to the metamorphosis of animals ; (an error into which I fell 
in my first edition, as Ferdinand Cohn properly points out), nor indeed 
is it such a metamorphosis at all. The pistil and petal are not first 
developed into leaves, and from these leaves changed into petal and 
pistil ; as a caterpillar developes into a grub, and the grub into a 
butterfly. This would be metamorphosis. Instead of this we must 
conceive the whole plant as a succession of repetitions of the original 
• Whewell's translation : Hist. Inductive ScUnees, iii, 360. 


type variouslj modified ; in some of these repetitions tlie nio<iific&- 
tion has been slight, in others considerable. The two typical forms 
are stem and leaf. From the seed there is an ascending and a de^ 
scending axis, formed of a succession of stems : the ascending axis 
is called the aerial stem ; the descending axis is the root. From boili 
of these stems lateral stems or branches are given off; and from these 
again others. The Leaf is the second type : it forms all the other 
organs by various modifications. Widely as a pistil diffei-a from a 
petal, and both from an ordinary leaf, they are disclosed as identic^ 
by the history of their development. 

It is impossible to be even superficially acquainted with biological 
speculations, and not to recognise the immense importance of the 
recognition of a Type. As Helmholtz truly observes, " the labours 
of botanists and zoologists did little more than coUect materials^ until 
they learned to dispose them in such a series that the laws of de- 
pendence and a generalised type could be elicited. Here the great 
mind of our poet found a field suited to it ; and the time wa^ favour- 
able. Enough material had been collected in botany and compara- 
tive anatomy for a clear survey to be taken ; and although his con- 
temporaries aU wandered without a compass, or contented themselves 
with a dry registration of facts, he was able to introduce into science 
two leading ideas of infinite fruitfulness.'^ 

And here the question presents itself: Is Goethe rightfull}^ en* 
titled to the honour universally awarded to him of having founded 
the Morphology of Plants ? We must again evoke the distinctiou 
previously stated (p. 344). No one denies that the doctrine was so 
entirely novel that botanists at first rejected it with contempt, and 
only consented to accept it when some eminent botanists had sbawn 
it to be true. No one denies that Goethe worked it out ; if any pre- 
decessor had conceived the idea, no one had carried the idea into its 
manifold applications. But he has himself named Linnajus and 
Wolff as his precursors ; and it is of some interest to ascertam in 
what degree these precursors have claim to the honour of the dis- 

It has been remarked by the eminent botanist Ferdinand Cohnj* 
that the great Linn89us mingled with his observation much fantastic 
error, which the poet Goethe was the first to eliminate. But Dr. 
Hooker, while admitting the metaphysical and speculative matter 
which Linnaeus has mixed up with his statements, is disposed to 
value them highly. " The fundamental passage is in the Si/^temn 

• Goethe und die Metamorphosen der Pfianam, in the J>euUche$ Museum of Pbtjti, 
IV, Jan. 1862. 


Naturce, in the introduction to which work the following passage 
occurs : — ' Prolepsis (Anticipation) (exhibits the mystery of the meta- 
morphosis of plants, by which the herb, which is the larva or imper- 
fect condition, is changed iuto the declared fructification : for the 
plant is capable of producing either a leafy herb or a fructification. 
. . . When a tree produces a flower, nature anticipates the produce 
of five years where these come out all at once ; forming of the bud 
leaves of the next year, bracts ; of those of the following year, the 
calyx; of the following, the corolla ; of the next, the stamina; of 
the subsequent, the pistils, filled with the granulated marrow of the 
seed, the terminus of the life of a vegetable/ ... In the Prolepsis 
the speculative matter, which Linnasus himself carefully distinguishes 
as such, must be separated from the rest, and this may, I think, be 
done in most of the sections. He starts with explaining clearly and 
well the origin and position of buds, and their constant presence, 
whether developed or not, in the axils of the leaf : adding abundance 
of acute observations and experiments to prove his statements. The 
leaf he declares to be the first effort of the plant in spring : he pro- 
ceeds to show, successively, that bracts, calyx, corolla, stamen, ancl 
pistils are each of tHem metamorphosed leaves.'^* Dr. Hooker 
adds, " There is nothing in all this that detracts from the merits of 
Goethe's re-discovery '/' and there can be little doubt that, had not 
Goethe, or another, proved the doctrine, botanists would to this day 
have continued to pass over the passage in LinnsBus as one of his 
^'fanciful flights.'' 

The apergu was in Linnaeus ; a spark awaiting the presence of 
some inflammable imagination ; and when we remember how fond 
Goethe was of Linnaeus, we can hardly suppose that this apergu had 
not more than once flashed across his mind as a gleam of the truth. 
With regard to Caspar Friedrich Wolff the evidence is far from satis- 
factory. It is certain that Wolff in his immortal work on '^ Genera- 
tion" had clearly grasped the morphological principles, and ht^d left 
Goethe very little to add to them. But it is very uncertain whether 
Goethe had ever read Wolff. Some years after the pubUcation of 
his work he mentions with pride the fact of Wolff having been his 
'' admirable precursor," and says that his attention to the work had 
been drawn by a namesake of the great embryologist. It was with 
no little surprise therefore that I read in Duntzer,t the unhesitating 
assertion that in 1785 Herder had made Goethe a present of Wolff's 
Theoria Oenerationis, which contained a rough outline of several of 

• Whewell : Hist, of Ind. Sciences, 3rd ed., iii, 658. 
t Goethe und Karl Aitgust, 1861, p. 212. 


Goethe's &roiirite ideas. If this statement were correct^ Goethe 
wotild be under serious suspicion ; but it is not correct. On re- 
ferring to the passage in Herder's letter to Knebel, which Diintzer 
pretends is the authority for this statement, I find, in the first place, 
that Herder does not specify the Theoria Oenerationis, nor indeed can 
we be sure he refers to C. F. WolfiF at all, he merely says, "Wolf,'* 
which is a common name among German authors ; in the second 
place he does not say that he has given the book to Goethe, but that 
he interids doing so when he can get a copy ; meanwhile Knebel is 
not to mention the book to Goethe. And out of such a sentence as 
this, Diintzer has constructed a "fact,'' which while it gives his 
pedantry the small delight of correcting in a foot note Goethe's 
assertion that F. A. WolfP directed his attention to the Theoria 
OeneratUmisy lays Goethe open to the charges of having borrowed 
his morphology from Wolff, of having concealed the fact, and of 
having pretended never to have seen his predecessor's work until 
his attention was directed to it some years afterwards. Against 
such charges the following arguments may be urged. First, there 
is Goethe's own explicit statement — and his veracity is not lightly 
to be questioned. Secondly, if the work referred to by Herder 
was the Theoria Oenerationis (which is probable, but not certain), 
and if it was given as intended, (also probable but not certain), we 
have no evidence that Goethe read it. Thirdly, and conclusively, 
the date of the very letter in which Herder mentions his intention 
is ten years later (1795) than Diintzer would have us suppose ; 
and is thus five years after the pubhcation of Goethe's views 

The Metamorphosen was published in 1790. In 1817 Goethe says 
that he had requested his scientific friends to make notes of any 
passages they might meet in earlier writers relative to the topic he 
had treated, because he was convinced that there was nothing ab- 
solutely new. His friend F. A. Wolff directed him to Caspar 
Friedrich. In expressing his admiration for his great predecessor 
he is proud to acknowledge how much he had learned from him 
during five-and-twenty years. Now five-and-twenty years from 1817 
brings us back to 1 792 — ^that is to say, two years after the publica- 
tion of the Metamorphosen, and three years before the letter written 
by Herder.f So that if we assume the work in question to have 

* See Enzbel : NaehloM, ii, 268, which is the authority cited by DOntzer, whoee 
inaccuracy is unpardonable in one so uniformly dull, and so merciless in ferreting 
out the small inaccuracies of others. 

t It should be added that Knebel's editors place a (?.) after the date 1795. But 


been the Theoria Generationia, Goethe was perfectly correct in men- 
tioning A. F. Wolflf, and not Herder, as the friend to whom he was 
first indebted for a knowledge of its existence. 

The tone in which Goethe speaks of Caspar Priedrich Wolff is 
assuredly not that of a man who had any obligations to conceal ; 
but of a man who recognising a precursor with pleasure, speaks of 
the two theories as two independent modes of conceiving the phe- 
nomena, the theory of his precursor being pre-eminently physio- 
logical, while his own was pre-eminently morphological. 

With regard both to LinnsBus and Wolff it may be said that they 
anticipated the morphology of plants, but that to Goethe belongs 
the credit of establishing it. We do not take from the credit of 
Columbus by showing that five centuries before he discovered the 
New World, Scandinavian voyagers had repeatedly touched on those 
shores ; nor do we diminish the value of Goethe's contribution to 
Science, by showing that before him Wolff had perceived the identity 
of the various organs of the plant. It was not the purpose of the 
Scandinavians to discover the New World. They did not make 
their discovery a possession for mankind. Neither was it Wolff's 
purpose to create a new theory in Botany. He discovered a process 
of nature while he was seeking the laws of Epigenesis, and he only 
used his discovery as one of several illustrations. Columbus set out 
with the distinct purpose of discovery, and made his discovery a 
possession for all time. So also Goethe set out with the distinct 
purpose, and Botanists justly declare that to his work they owe the 
idea of plant metamorphosis. 

Goethe's work is very beautiful, and may be read without any 
previous botanical knowledge. It traces the metamorphoses of the 
grain into the leaf, and thence into the flower. The morphological 
part is perfect, except that, as Cohn remarks, he has given an exclusive 
predominance to the leaf, and overlooked the not less important 
stem. It is to be regretted that he hampers himself with the fol- 
lowing physiological hypothesis : every segment proceeding imme- 
diately from that which goes before it, receiving its nourishment 
through all the segments which have gone before, must, he says, 
be more perfect, and must send to its leaves and buds a more 
elaborated sap. The result is that the coarser fluids are rejected, 
the finer attracted, and the plant grows more and more perfect till 
it reaches its point of culmination. 

we have no reason to suppose they oovld err by ten jean in assigning this letter 
its place ; Dilntzer professes no doabt as to the accoraoy of the date ; and internal 
evidence, talcen with what is said above, renders it highly probable that 1795 is 
very little removed from the correct date. 


This hypothesis of a more elaborated sap^ reaching the ultimate 
segments, is in direct contradiction to the hypothesis of Wolff, 
which also declares the flower to be modified leaves ; but how modi- 
fied?* they are modified because they are imperfect. Their de- 
velopment has been arrested. They are smaller, have less sap, the 
sap has lost its chlorophyl, and the colour of the flower is an evi- 
dence of imperfection. I cannot stop to consider Wolff's ingenious 
arguments by which he endeavours to show that flowering and fruc- 
tification are arrests of development. It is enough to indicate the 
contrast between his and Goethe's views. Both are agreed that 
inasmuch as a differentiation does take place, it must have some 
cause ; but the cause is by Wolff said to be deficiency of sap, by 
Goethe elaborated sap. 

Goethe agrees with Wolff as regards the passage of the leaf into the 
flower being dependent on the acceleration or retardation of the sap. 
It had been noticed by Linnaeus that a too abundant supply of food 
retards the flowering, and accelerates the growth of leaves ; whereas 
a moderate supply, nay, even an approach to starvation, accelerates 
the flowering and diminishes the number of leaves. Wolff attributes 
this simply to the fact that so long as there is abundant nutriment 
there will be abundant growth, and no arrest in the shape of imper- 
fect leaves (i. e,, flowers) ; and when nutriment is scanty, the arrest 
soon takes place. But unfortunately for this opinion, and indeed 
for the opinion that flowers are imperfect leaves resulting from a 
want of nutriment, there is a class of plants which blossom before 
they put forth leaves. Goethe's explanation, hypothetical though it 
be, is better. He says that as long as there are any of the grosser 
fluids to be rejected, the organs of the plant are forced to employ 
themselves in this labour, which labour renders flowering impossible ; 
but no sooner do we limit the nourishment than, by diminishing 
this process of elaboration, we accelerate the flowering. 

We are here touching on the great law of antagonism between 
Grrowth and Development which is intimately connected with the 
law of Reproduction — ^a subject too vast to be even indicated in this 
rapid survey. The student will note, however, that although Goethe 
perils his position by the introduction of an hypothetical elaboration 
of fluids, without assigning a cause for that elaboration, he never- 
theless sees, what many fail to see, that Reproduction is only another 
form of Growth — a process of differentiation. " The vital forces of 
the plant," he says, ^' manifest themselves in two ways : on the one 
hand vegetation^ issuing in the stem and leaves ; on the other repro- 
• Theorie von der Oeneraiion, § 80, sq. 


duction, issuing in flowers and fruits. If we examine vegetation 
closely, we shall see that the plant continuing itself from articulation 
to articulation, from leaf to leaf, and putting forth buds, accom- 
plishes a reproduction which differs from that ordinarily so-named in 
being successive — it manifests itself in a series of isolated develop, 
ments instead of manifesting itself simultaneously. That force which 
produces buds has the greatest analogy with that which determines 
simultaneously the higher act of propagation. We can force the 
plant to produce buds incessantly, or we can accelerate the epoch of 
flowering ; the first by abundant nourishment, the second by nou- 
rishment less abundant. In defining budding as ' successive propa- 
gation^, SkvA flowering sjiA fructification as ^ simultaneous propagation', 
we designate the mode in which each manifests itself. Thus, then, 
whether the plant buds, flowers, or fructifies, it is always by means 
of tJie same organs, the form and destination of which are changed. 
The same organ which expands into a leaf upon the stem and pre- 
sents such varied forms, contracts to make the calyx, expands again 
to make the petal, to contract once more into the sexual organs^ 
and expand for the last time into fruit." 

Whatever may be the final decision upon the Metamorphoses of 
Plants, there must ever remain the great and unique glory of a poet 
having created a new branch of science, and by means as legiti- 
mately scientific as those of any other creation. Morphology now 
counts among its students illustrious names, and crowds of workers. 
And this science we owe to the author of Faust, Nor is this all. 
He has priority in some of the most luminous and comprehensive 
ideas which are now guiding philosophic speculation on the science 
of life. In the historical sketch which Cams prefixes to his 2Van- 
scendental Anatomy, after setting forth the various tentatives men 
had made to discover by means of descriptive anatomy, and occa- 
sional comparisons, the true relations of the various parts of the 
body, he says :* "If we go back as far as possible into the history 
of the labours undertaken with a view to arrive at the philosophic 
conception of the skeleton, we find that the first idea of a meta- 
morphosis of the osseous forms, — i, e., that all forms are but modi- 
fications more or less traceable of one and the same Type — ^belongs 
to Goethe." After a quotation of Goethe's words. Cams adds : " It 
is difficult to express in clearer terms the idea of the Unity which 
rules over the plurality of the skeleton-forms. Its first great appU- 
cation was the vertebral theory of the skull." 

Let me repeat, as a matter of justice, and not to allow the high 

• Anatomie Comparie, vol. iii, p. 3. French trans. 

A A 


praise bestowed on Goethe's eflforts to mislead the reader's expecta- 
tion^ that the merit is that of a thinker in science, not the merit of 
an industrious discoverer and collector of details. His great effort 
was to create a Method, to establish principles upon which the 
science could be founded. In an admirable little essay on " Expe- 
riment as the mediator between the Object and the Subject'', written 
in 1793, we see how clear were his ideas on Method. ''Man," he 
says, '' regards at first all external objects with reference to himself; 
and rightly so, for his whole fj^te depends on them, on the pleasure 
or pain which they cause him, on their utility or danger to him." 
This is the initial stage of all speculation. Its Method is the 
determination of the external order according to a/nalogies drawn 
from within. The culmination of this Method is seen in the fun- 
damental axiom of Des Cartes and Spinoza: all clear ideals are 
tme. So long as this Method is followed. Metaphysics reigns tri- 
umphant, and Science is impossible. It is displaced by the Ob- 
jective Method. Goethe remarks how much more difficult is the 
task of discerning objects according to this Method, L e., not as 
related to us, but as related to one another. Our touchstone of 
pleasure or pain is given up. With godlike indifference we become 
spectators, and seek that which is, not that which touches its. Thus 
the real botanist considers less the beauty, or the use of flowers, 
than their laws of growth, and their relation to each other. And as 
the sun shines on them, developing them all impartially, so must the 
philosopher look on them with calm contemplative eye, taking the 
terms of his comparison from the circle he contemplates, not from 
any figments of his own mind. Goethe sets aside all inquiry into 
final causes, — ^by Bacon justly styled '' barren virgins", — and seeks 
to know what is. 

It is worthy of remark that the study of Development is quite a 
modem study. Formerly men were content with the full-statured 
animal, — the perfected art, — the completed society. The phases of 
development and the laws of growth were disregarded, or touched 
on in a vague uncertain manner. A change has come over the spirit 
of inquiry. " The history of Development," says von Baer, " is the 
true torchbearer in every inquiry into organic bodies.'^ In Geology, 
in Physiology, in History, and in Art, we are now all bent on tracing 
the phases of development. To understand the grown we try to fol- 
low the growths 

As a thinker in science Goethe was truly remarkable, and as a 
worker not contemptible. To prove how far he was in advance of 
his age we have only to cite a single passage which, in its aphoristic 


pregnant style, contains the clear announcement of biological laws, 
which have since been named among the glories of Geoflfroy St. 
Hilaire, Von Baer, Milne-Edwards, Cuvier and Lamarck. 

'' Eveiy living being is not a unity but a plurality. Even when it 
appears as an individual, it is the reunion of beings living and exist- 
ing in themselves, identical in origin, but which may appear identical 
or similar, different or dissimilar. 

'' The more imjperfect a being is the more do its individual parts 
resemble each other, and the more do these parts resemble the whole. 
The more perfect the being is the more dissimilar are its parts. In 
the former case the parts are more or less a repetition of the whole ; 
in the latter case they are totally unlike the whole. 

'' The more the parts resemble each other, the less subordination 
is there of one to the other. Subordination of parts indicates high 
grade of organisation "'^ 

To illustrate by familiar examples. Take a polyp and cut it into 
several pieces ; each piece will live and manifest all those phenomena 
of nutrition and sensibility which the whole polyp manifested. Turn 
it inside out like a glove, the internal part becomes its skin, the ex- 
ternal part becomes its stomach. The reason is, that in the simple 
structure of the polyp, the parts resemble each other and resemble 
the whole. There is no individual organ, or apparatus of organs, 
performing one function, such as nutrition, and nothing else. Every 
function is performed by every part ; just as in savage societies, 
every man is his own tailor, his own armourer, his own cook, and 
his own, policeman. But take an animal higher in the scale, and 
there you find the structure composed of dissimilar parts, and each 
part having a different oflBce. That animal cannot be hewn in pieces 
and each piece continue to live as before. That animal cannot have 
its skin suddenly turned into a stomach. That animal, in the social 
body, cannot make his own clothes or his own musket ; the division 
of labour which has accompanied his higher condition has robbed 
him of his universal dexterity. 

The law invoked by Goethe, is now to be met with in every phi- 
losophic work on zoology. One form of it is known in England as 
Von Baer's law, viz., that Development proceeds from the Like to 
the Unlike, from the General to the Particular, from the Homo- 
geneous to the Heterogeneous. I have too profound an admiration 
for Von Baer to wish in any way to diminish his splendid claims, 
but I cannot help remarking that when writers attribute to him the 
merit of having discovered this law, they are in direct contradiction 
• Zur Morphologie, 1807 (written in 1795), Werke, xxxvi, p. 7. 

A a2 


with Von Baer himself, who not only makes no such claim, but in 
giving the formula adds, '^ this law of development has indeed never 
been overlooked/^* His merit is the splendid application and 
demonstration of the law, not the first perception of it. 

It is generally known that the law of ^' division of labour in the 
animal organism ^' is claimed by Milne-Edwards, the great French 
zoologist, as a discovery of his own. Yet we see how clearly it is 
expressed in Goethe's formula. And with even more clearness do 
we see expressed Cuvier's principle of classification, viz., the mb^ 
ordination of farts. I do not wish to press this point further, nor 
do I wish that these great men should be robbed of any merit in 
order to glorify Goethe with their trophies. The student of histoiy 
knows how discoveries are, properly speaking, made by the Age, 
and not by men. He knows that all discoveries have had their 
anticipations ; and that the ' world justly credits the man who 
makes the discovery available, not the man who simply perceived 
that it was possible. I am not here writing the history of science, but 
the biography of Goethe j and the purpose of these citations is to 
show that he placed himself at the highest point of view possible to 
his age, and that as a thinker he thought the thoughts which the 
greatest men have subsequently made popular. 

Observe, moreover, that Goethe's anticipation is not of that 
slight and fallacious order which, like so many other anticipations, 
rests upon a vague or incidental phrase. He did not simply at- 
tain an aper9u of the truth. He mastered the law, and his mas- 
tery of that law sprang from his mastery of the whole series of 
conceptions in which it finds its place. Thus in his '^ Introduc- 
tion to Comparative Anatomy," written in 1795, he pointed out 
the essentially sterile nature of the comparisons then made, not 
only in respect of comparing animals with men and with each 
other, not only in the abuse of final causes, but also in taking 
man as the standard, instead of commencing with the simplest 
organisms and rising gradually upwards. One year after this, 
Geofiroy St. Hilaire, ignorant of what was passing in the study at 
Weimar, and in the Museum at Jena, published his Dissertation siir 
les Maldsy wherein he began his renovation of the science. He, too, 
like Goethe, was bent on the creation of a Type according to which 
all organised structures could be explained. This conception of a 

• " Dieses Gesetz der Ausbildung ist wohl nie verkannt worden." Tkir EntMnckel- 
ungsgeschichte. Erster TheU, p. 153. Among others, Wolff has clearly stated it. 
Theorie von der Oeneration, § 28, p. 163. See also Meckel, Traiii d*Anaiom%e Com- 
pare'e. French trans., i, 297. Bitffon also says : " Un corps organist dont tontes 
les parties seraient semblables k lui-m^me est la plus simple car ce n'est que la r^p^- 
tition de la mdme forme." Hist. N<U., 1749, ii, 47. 


Tjpe (all^emeinea BildJ, according to which the whole animal king* 
dom may be said to be constructed, was a truly scientific conception, 
and has borne noble fruit. It must not, however, be confounded 
with a Platonic Idea. It was no metaphysical entity, it was simply 
a scientific artifice. Goethe expressly says that we are not for an 
instant to believe in the existence of this Type as an objective reahty, 
although it is the generalised expression of that which really exists. 
This caution has not been sufficiently present to the minds of several 
speculators ; and the idea of a Type has engendered not a few extra- 
vagances. Nevertheless, the net result of these speculations has 
been good. 

One of the most interesting applications of the idea of a Type is 
the theory of the vertebral structure of the skull. Every cultivated 
ireader knows that transcendental anatomists now conceive the skull a9 
composed of three, or more, vertebraa variously modified ; but very 
few readers have a distinct conception of what parts of the skull are 
separable into vertebrsB, or what is the amount of resemblance now 
traceable underneath the modifications ; and this is the less to be 
wondered at, seeing that even now there is no great unanimity 
among independent investigators. The principles of Morphology 
are not always sufficiently attended to. Just as in considering the 
Metamorphoses of Plants we had to dismiss the idea of the pistil or 
stamen having been modified from a leaf, so must we dismiss the 
idea of a skuU having been modified from a vertebral column. In 
both cases we may express the morphological identity — the unity of 
composition — ^by considering every organ in the plant as a modifica- 
tion of the typical leaf, and every bone in the skeleton as a modifi- 
cation of the t^-pical vertebra (or part of a vertebra) ; but it is as 
inaccurate and misleading to call the skull a vertebral column, as it 
would be to call the brain a spinal cord. Between the brain and 
cord there is a fundamental identity : both are masses of ganglionic 
substance, having (as I have elsewhere shown*) identical properties 
and similar, though not the same, functions. But over and above 
these fundamental resemblances there are manifest and important 
diflferences. To disregard these diflTerences, and fix attention solely 
on the resemblances, is eminently unphilosophical ; and we can only 
be justified in saying that the structure of the skull is on the same 
general plan as the structure of the rest of the spinal axis, precisely 
as we say that the structure of the fish exhibits the same general 
plan as the structure of the quadruped. In other words, every 

• Reports of British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1869, and Physio- 
logy of Common Life, vol. ii. 


special vertebra is the individual form of a general type. The sknll 
is not^ as Oken maintaina, a modified spimd column.* To maintain 
this is to say that the spinal vertebra is the typical form from which 
the cranial vertebrae are developed ; whereas, in troth, both are bnt 
variations of one typical form ; and the idea of Kielmeyer that the 
4spinal column is a skoD, is qoite as accnrate as the idea of Oken 
that the sknll is a spinal colonrn. Indeed, Eielmeyer's idea is the 
more admissible of the two ; for if we seek onr evidence in embry- 
ology, or in that " permanent embryology" the Animal Series, we 
find the cranial vertebrad are first in order of time : in fishes the skull 
alone presents true osseous development of all the segments of the 
typical bone ; and if we go still lower in the series, we find — ^in the 
Cephalopoda — a rudimentary brain, not unlike the lower forms of 
the brain in fishes, enclosed in a rudimentary skull, but without a 
spinal cord or spinal column. We are justified, therefore, in saying 
that the skull cannot be a modification of the spinal column. 

Oken and Spix regard the head as a '' repetition" of the trunk ; 
the brain is a repetition of the spinal cord ; the mouth repeats the 
intestine and abdomen ; the nose repeats the lungs and thorax ; the 
jaws the limbs. Unfortunately for this ingenious scheme, there are 
vertebrate animals with heads but without limbs ; and it would there- 
fore be nearer the mark to call the limbs modified jaws, than to call 
jaws modified limbs. In presence of such perplexities, we cannot 
wonder if some men have objected to the vertebral theory, that it 
amounts to nothing more than saying a vertebra is a bone. 

The typical vertebra is thus defined by Owen : '* One of those seg- 
ments of the endoskeleton which constitutes the axis of the body 
and the protecting canals of the nervous and vascular trunks.^f ^ 
perfect vertebra should therefore contain at least two arches, one 
to form the protecting walls of a nervous centre, the other to 
form the protecting walls of the great bloodvessels. Now if we 
make a section of the skull, we find that this bony box " consists of 
a strong central mass whence spring an upper arch and a lower arch. 
The upper arch is formed by the walls of the cavity containing the 
brain, and stands in the same relation to it as does the neural arch of 
a vertebra to the spinal cord with which that brain is continuous. The 
lower arch encloses the other viscera of the head, in the same way as 
the ribs embrace those of the thorax. And not only is the general 
analogy between the two manifest, but a young skull may readily be 
separated into a number of segments, in each of which it requires 

• " As the brain ia a more ▼oluminoualy developed spinal cord, so is the brain- 
case a more voluminous spinal column." Okxn; cited by Owen. Homologies, p. 74. 
t OwBW : Homologies, p. 81. 


but little imaghiation to trace a sort of family likeness to such an 
expanded vertebra as the atlas/^* 

The luminous guide of anatomical research, by Geoffroy St. 
Hilaire named " le principe des connexions,^' will thus easily lead 
us to recognise the neural arches of the brain case as homologues of 
the neural arches of the spinal axis, and we may ask with Huxley, 
*^ What can be more natural than to take another step to conceive the 
skull as a portion of the vertebral column still more altered than the 
sacrum or coccyx, whose vertebras are modified in correspondence 
with the expansion of the anterior end of the nervous centre and the 
needs of the cephalic end of the body V* This was the question 
which flashed upon the poet's mind, and which indeed is so inti- 
mately allied to the morphological doctrines he had already found 
realised in plants, that far from estimating it as a discovery which 
reflects singular honour on his sagacity, I am disposed to think more 
lightly of it than of many a neglected sentence in his little studied 
essays. I say this, not because the idea seems obvious now it has 
been stated, and every one can make the eg^ stand on end after 
Columbus, but because in Goethe's attempt to carry his idea into 
tfnatomical detail, it is universally confessed that he was not success- 
ful. This is a point to which we shall presently return. Meanwhile 
I may add that, on re-examination of this complex subject, I am of 
opinion that neither Goethe nor Oken has been free from a certain 
indistinctness of conception, or has sufficiently kept before him all 
the elements of the problem. A fundamental mistake, already 
touched upon, is*4n the supposed relation of the skull to the spinal 
axis. Anatomists would scarcely venture to affirm that the brain 
bears the same relation to the cervical enlargement of the spinal 
cord, as that enlargement bears to the lumbar enlargement of the 
cord j yet they affirm, expUcitly and impUcitly, that the brain-case 
bears the same relation to the cervical vertebraB as those vertebreB 
bear to the lumbar. Whereas anatomy very plainly teaches that 
over and above certain fundamental resemblances between the brain 
and spinal cord, resemblances not much greater than between the 
sympathetic ganglia and the brain, there are also manifest and im- 
portant difierences, very early exhibited in the course of embryo- 
logical development, and bringing with them corresponding dif- 
ferences in the protecting bones. And in this point of view the re- 
searches of embryologists, as expounded in Huxley's remarkable 
Croonian Lecture, seem decisive. I will cite here the conclusion to 
which Huxley is led : " The fallacy involved in the vertebral theory 
• HuxuET : Croonian Lecture, 1858. 


of the skull," he says, " is like that which before Von Baer infested 
our notions of the relations between fishes and mammals. The 
mammal was imagined to be a modified fish, whereas, in truth, both 
fish and mammal start from a common point, and each follows its 
own road thence. So. I conceive what the facts teach us is this : — 
the spinal column and the skull start from the same primitive condi- 
tion — a common central plate with its laminaa dorsales and ventrales 
— ^whence they immediately begin to diverge. The spinal column, 
in all cases, becomes segmented into its somatomes ; and in the great 
majority of cases distinct centra and intercentra are developed, en- 
closing the notocord more or less completely. The cranium never 
becomes segmented into somatomes ; distinct centra and intercentra, 
like those of the spinal column, are never developed in it. Much of 
the basis cranii lies beyond the notocord. In the process of ossifi- 
cation there is a certain analogy between the spinal column and the 
cranium, but the analogy becomes weaker as we proceed towards the 
anterior end of the skull." 

Although Huxley insists, perhaps, too much upon the differences, 
in his impatience at the too great emphasis which has been laid on 
the resemhlaiiceSy his criticism seems to me conclusive against the 
vertebral theory as generally understood. It is certainly extending 
the principles of transcendental anatomy to a hazardous limit when 
the brain is regarded as a " repetition" of any segments of the spinal 
cord. The differences between the two are more than differences of 
volume and shape. In the one the grey matter is inside ; in the other 
it is outside. From the one sensory and motor nerves, symmetrically 
in pairs, are given off* to supply the skin and muscles ; in the other 
the sensory and motor nerves are not only distributed in a very dif- 
ferent manner — the optic, olfactory, and acoustic having no corre- 
sponding motor nerves — ^but they are limited to gangUa at the base 
and in the medulla oblongata : the two most voluminous and import- 
ant parts of the brain (the cerebrum and cerebellum) having no 
nerves whatever. In the presence of such wide diversities as these, 
not to mention others, it is surely an abuse of language when Oken 
calls the brain a more voluminously developed spinal cord, and de- 
duces thence that the brain-case is only a repetition of the spinal 

Having thus endeavoured to convey some idea of the famous ver- 
tebral theory of the skull, I have now to consider a somewhat 
angrily debated question, affecting Goethe's character more than his 
intellectual pretensions, namely, the charge of mendacious vanity 
brought against him by Oken, and, I am sorry to say, very incon- 


siderately countenanced by Professor Owen,* in respect to priority in 
the discovery. 

Fifteen years after Goethe had passed away from this world, and 
when therefore there was no power of reply, Oken in the Isis (1847, 
Heft vii) made his charge. His statement completely staggered me, 
suggesting very painful feelings as to Goethe^s conduct. Indeed, 
the similarity in the stories of both suggests suspicion. Goethe, 
during one of his rambles in the Jewish cemetery near Venice, 
noticed the skull of a ram, which had been cut longitudinally, and 
on examining it, the idea occurred to him that the face was com- 
posed of three vertebrae : ^^the transition from the anterior sphenoid 
to the ethmoid was evident at once'^. Now, compare Oken^s story. 
He narrates how in 1802 in a work on the Senses, he had represented 
these organs as repetitions of lower organs, although he had not then 
grasped the idea, which lay so close at hand, respecting the skull as 
a repetition of the spinal column. In 1803 he identified the jaws of 
insects as Umbs of the head; and in 1806, while rambling in the 
Harz mountains, he picked up the skull of a deer : on examining it, 
he exclaimed, "That is a vertebral column 1'' Virchow admits 
that the coincidence in the stories is singular, but adds that the dis- 
covery is just as probable in the one case as in the other j all that is 
proved by the coincidence being that both minds were on the verge 
of the discovery. Goethe by long physiognomical and osteological 
studies was prepared for the idea j and was naturally led from the 
Metamorphoses of Plants to those of Insects j and if Oken reversed 
this order, passing from insects to mammals, he was, nevertheless, 
many years later than Goethe, as dates unequivocally prove. It is 
important to bear in mind that the vertebral theory is only another 
appUcation of those morphological doctrines which Goethe had de- 
veloped and applied to plants ; and although it is quite possible that 
lie might have held these views without making the special applica- 
tion to the skull ; yet we know as a fact that he at once saw how the 
morphological laws must necessarily apply to animals, since he ex- 
pressly states this in announcing his discovery to Herder.* Nay, 
he shortly afterwards wrote, "In Natural History I shall bring you 
what you Uttle expect. I beUeve myself to be very near the law of 
organisation.^' Still it may be objected, this is no proof; it only 
shows that Goethe applied his doctrines to the animal organisation, 
not that he made a special application to the skull. Even this 
doubt, however, has been finally settled by the recently published 

* Art. Okbn in EnofclapcBdia Britannica, 8th edit, 
t lUUxanische Beiae, n, p. 6. 


correspondence, whicli gives ns a letter from Goethe to Herder's 
wife, dated 4th May, 1790, from Venice, "Through a singular and 
lucky accident I have been enabled to take a step fowards in mj 
explanation of the animal development (ThierbildungJ . My servant, 
in jest, took up the fragment of an animal's skull from the Jewish 
cemetery, pretending to offer it me as a Jew's skull/^ Now whoi 
we remember that Groethe in after years affirmed that it was in 1 790, 
and in the Jewish cemetery of Venice, that the idea of the vertebral 
structure of the skull flashed upon him, the evidence of this lett^ 
is conclusive. 

Oken declares he made his discoveiy in 1806, and that in 1807 he 
wrote his Academic Programme. He was then a PHvaUDocenJt in 
Gottingen, ''at a time, therefore, when Goethe certainly knew 
nothing of my existence/' He sent his dissertation to Jena, where 
he had just been appointed professor. Of that university Goethe 
was curator. Oken considers this fact decisive : namely, that Goethe 
would assuredly have remonstrated against Oken's claim to the dis- 
covery had he not recognised its justice. The fact, however, is by 
no means decisive : we shall see presently that Goethe had his own 
reasons for silence. "I naturally sent Goethe a copy of my pro- 
gramme. This discovery pleased him so much that he invited me, 
at Easter, 1808, to spend a week with him at Wiemar, which I did. 
As long as the discoveiy was ridiculed by men of science Goethe 
was silent, but no sooner did it attain renown through the works of 
Meckel, Spix, and others, than there g^ew up a murmur among 
Goethe's servile admirers that this idea originated with him. About 
this time Bojanus went to Weimar, and hearing of Groethe's dis- 
covery, half believed it, and sent the rumour to me, which I thought- 
lessly printed in the Isis (1818, p. 509); whereupon I announced 
that I made my discovery in the autumn of 1806." This is equi- 
vocal. He did not throw any doubt on Goethe's claim to priority, 
he only asserted his own originality. "Now that Bojanus had 
brought the subject forward," ho adds, ''Goethe's vanity was 
piqued, and he came afterwards, thirteen years subsequent to my 
discovery, and said ho had held the opinion for thirty years." 

Why was Goethe silent when Oken first announced his discoveiy? 
and why did not Oken make the charge of plagiarism during 
Goethe's lifetime? The first question may be answered from Goethe's 
own works. In a note entitled Das ScMdelgerust avs seclis WirheU 
Jcnochen auferbaut, after alluding to his recognition first of three and 
subsequently of six vertebrae in the skull, which ho spoke of among 
his friends, who set to work to demonstrate it if possible, he says : 


^'In the year 1807 this theory appeared tumultuoasly and imper- 
fectly before the public, and naturally awakened great disputes and 
some applause. How seriously it was damaged by the incomplete 
and fantastic method of exposition History must relate/' This 
criticism of the exposition will be understood by everyone who has 
read Oken, and who knows Goethe's antipathy to metaphysics.* 
With all his prepossession in favour of a Type, he could not patiently 
have accepted an exposition which " tumultuously '' announced that 
''The whole man is but a vertebra." Accordingly he took no notice 
of the tumultuous metaphysician ; and in his Tag und Jahres Hefte 
he mentions that while he was working out his theory with two 
friends, Biemer and Voigt, they brought him, with some surprise, 
the news that this idea had just been laid before the public in an 
accbdemic programme, ''a fact," he adds, "which they, being sUll 
alive, can testify.^* Why did he not claim priority ? "I told my 
friends to keep quiet, for the idea was not properly worked out in 
the programme ; and that it was not elaborated from original 
observations would be plain to all scientific men. I was frequently 
besought to speak plainly on the subject; but I was firm in my 

When I first discussed this question, and knew nothing of the 
decisive evidence which lay unpublished in the letter to Herder's 
wife, I said that this statement carried complete conviction to my mind. 
It was published many years before Oken made his charge, and it 
accused him in the most explicit terms of having prematurely dis- 
closed an idea Goethe was then elaborating with the assistance of 
his friends. Nor was this all. It appealed to two honourable and 
respected men, then living, as witnesses of the truth. Oken said 
nothing when the question could have been peremptorily settled by 
calling upon Voigt and Riemer. He waited till death rendered an 
appeal impossible. He says, indeed, that he made no answer to 
the first passage I have cited, because he was not named in it, and 
he " did not wish to involve himself in a host of disagreeables." 
But this is no answer to the secand passage. There he is named as 
plainly as if the name of Oken were printed in full ; and not only is 
he named, but Goethe's friends speak of Oken's coming forward 
with Goethe's idea as a matter which " surprised " them. Those to 
whom this reasoning was not conclusive are now referred to the 
confirmation it receives from the letter to Herder's wife. 

Having vindicated Goethe's character, and shown ih&tbiographically 

* So also Cuvier's antipathy to this exposition made him blind to the truth which 
it contained. 


.we are fdlly justified in assigning to Him the honour of having first 
conceived this theory, it now remains to be added that historically 
the priority of Oken's claim must be admitted. In writing the 
poet's biography, it is of some importance to show that he was not 
indebted to Oken for the discovery. In writing the history of 
science, it would be to Oken that priority would be assigned, 
simply because, according to the judicious principles of historical 
appreciation, priority of publication carries off the prize. No man's 
claim to priority is acknowledged unless he can bring forward the 
evidence of publication; otherwise every discovery might be claimed 
by those who have no right to it. Moreover, Oken has another 
claim : to him undeniably belongs the merit of having introduced 
the idea into, the scientific world, accompanied with sufficient 
amount of detail to make it acceptable to scientific minds, and to set 
them to work in verifying the idea. On these grounds I think it 
indisputable that the vertebral theory must be attributed to Oken, 
and not to Goethe ; although it is not less indisputable that Goethe 
did anticipate the discovery by sixteen years, and would have earned 
the right to claim it of History, had he made his discovery pubhc, 
instead of privately discussing it with his friends. Virchow thinks 
otherwise j he assigns priority to Goethe ; but he would, I am sure, 
admit the generally received principle that priority of publication is 
the test upon which alone History can rely. 

To conclude this somewhat lengthy chapter on the scientific 
studies, it must be stated that, for the sake of bringing together his 
various efforts into a manageable whole, I have not attended strictly 
to chronology. Nor have I specified the various separate essays he 
1ms written. They are all to be found collected in his works. My 
main object has been to show what were the directions of his mind ; 
what were his achievements and failures in Science; what place 
Science filled in his life, and how false the supposition is that he was 
a mere dabbler. What Buffon says of Pliny may truly be said of 
Goethe, that he had cette facilite de iienser en grand qui muUipUe la 
science ; and it is only as a thinker in this great department that I 
claim a high place for him. 





We now return to the narrative, some points of which have been 
anticipated in the preceding chapter. In 1790 Goethe undertook 
the government of all the Institutions for Science and Art, and 
busied himself with the arrangement of the Museums and Botanical 
Gardens at Jena. In March of the same year he went once more to 
Italy to meet the Duchess Amalia and Herder in Venice. There he 
tried in Science to find refuge from troubled thoughts. Italy on a 
second visit seemed, however, quite another place to him. He began 
to suspect there had been considerable illusion in the charm of his 
first visit. The Vetietian Epigrams, if compared with the Roman 
Elegies, will indicate the difierence of his mood. The yearning 
regret, the fulness of delight, the newness of wonder which give 
their accents to the Elegies, are replaced by sarcasms and the bit- 
terness of disappointment. It is true that many of these epigrams 
were written subsequently, as their contents prove, but the mass of 
them are products of the Venetian visit. Something of this dissa- 
tisfaction must be attributed to his position. He was ill at ease 
with the world. The troubles of the time, and the troubles of his 
own domestic affairs, aggravated the dangers which then threatened 
his aims of self-culture, and increased his difiiculty in finding that 
path in Science and Art whereon the culture of the world might be 

In June he returned to Weimar. In July the Duke sent for him 
at the Prussian Camp in Silesia, "where, instead of stones and 
flowers, he would see the field sown with troops.^* He went unwill- 
ingly, but compensated himself by active researches into " stones 
and flowers", leaving to the Duke and others such interest as was 
to be found in soldiers. He lived like a hermit in the camp, and 
began to write an essay on the development of animals, and a comic 

In August they returned. The Duchess Amalia and Herder, im- 
patient at " such waste of time over old bones," plagued him into 


relinquishing osteology, and urged him to complete WUhehaMeUter. 
He cQd not, however, proceed far with it. The creative impulse 
was past ; and to disprove Newton was a more imperious desire. 
In 1791, which was a year of quiet study and domestic happiness 
for him, the Court Theatre was established. He undertook the 
direction with delight. In a future chapter we shall follow his 
efforts to create a national stage, and by bringing them before the 
eye in one continuous series, save the tedious repetition of isolated 
details. In July the Duchess Amalia founded her Friday Even- 
ings. Her palace, between the hours of five and eight, saw the 
Duke, the Duchess Luise, Goethe and his circle, with a few favoured 
friends from the court, assembled to hear some one of the members 
read a composition of his own. No sort of etiquette was main* 
tained. Each member, on entering, sat down where he pleased. 
Only for the Header was a distinct place allotted. One night 
Goethe read them the genealogy of Cagliostro, which he had brought 
from Italy ; another night he gave them a lecture on Colours ; 
Herder lectured on Immortality ; Bertuch on Chinese Colours and 
English Gardens ; Bottiger on the Vases of the Ancients ; Hufe- 
land on his favourite theme of Longevity ; and Bode read fragments 
of his translation of Montaigne. When the reading was over, they 
all approached a large table in the middle of the room, on which lay 
some engravings or some novelty of interest, and friendly discussion 
began. The absence of etiquette made these reunions delightful. 

The mention of Cagliostro in the preceding paragraph recalls 
Goethe's comedy Der Gross Kophta, in which he dramatised the 
story of the Diamond Necklace. It had originally been arranged as 
an opera ; Reichardt was to have composed the music ; and if the 
reader happens to have waded through this dull comedy, he will 
regret that it was not made an opera, or anything else except what 
it is. One is really distressed to find such productions among the 
writings of so great a genius, and exasperated to find critics lavish 
in their praise of a work which their supersubtle ingenuity cannot 
rescue from universal neglect. I will not occupy space with an 
analysis of it. 

And now he was to be torn from his quiet studies to follow the 
fortunes of an unquiet camp. The King of Prussia and the Duke 
of Brunswick at the head of a large army invaded France, to restore 
Louis XVI to his throne, and save legitimacy from the sacrilegious 
hands of Sansculottism. France, it was said, groaned under the 
tyranny of factions, and yearned for deliverance. The emigrants 
made it clear as day that the allies would be welcomed by the whole 


nation ; and the German rulers willingly lent their arms to the sup- 
port of legitimacy, Karl August, passionately fond of the army, 
received the command of a Prussian regiment. And Goethe, pas- 
sionately fond of Karl August, followed him into the field. But he 
followed the Duke — ^he had no sympathy with the cause. Indeed, 
he had no strong feeling either way. Legitimacy was no pas- 
sion with him; stiU less was Republicanism. Without interest in 
passing politics, profoundly convinced that all salvation could only 
come through inward culture, and dreading disturbances mainly be- 
cause they rendered culture impossible, he was emphatically the 
'' Child of Peace,^^ and could at no period of his life be brought to 
sympathise with great struggles. He disliked the Revolution as he 
disliked the Reformation, because they both thwarted the peaceful 
progress of development : 

Franztlinin drang^ in diesen verworrenen Tagen wie ehmala 
Lutherthum es gethan^ ruhige Bildnhg zuruck. 

That philosophers and patriots should thunder against such a doc- 
trine, refute its arguments, and proclaim its dangers, is reasonable 
enough ; but how strangely unreasonable in philosophers and patriots 
to thunder against Goethe, because he, holding this doctrine, wrote 
and acted in its spirit I We do not need this example to teach us 
how men transfer their hatred of opinions to the holders of the hated 
opinions, otherwise we might wonder at the insensate howl which 
has been raised against the greatest glory of the German name, be- 
cause he did not share the opinions of the howlers ; opinions, too, 
which they for the most part would not have held, had they not been 
instructed by the events which have since given approbation to what 
then seemed madness. 

It was not in Goethe's nature to be much moved by events, to be 
deeply interested in the passing troubles of external life. A medi- 
tative mind like his naturally sought in the eternal principles of 
Nature the stimulus and the food, which other minds sought in pass- 
ing phenomena of the day. A poet and a philosopher is bound to 
be interested in the great questions of poetry and philosophy ; but 
to rail at him for not also taking part in politics, is as irrational as to 
rail at the prime minister because he cares not two pins for Greek 
Art, and has no views on the transmutation of species. It is said, 
and very foolishly said, that Goethe turned from politics to art and 
science, because politics disturbed him, and because he was too selfish 
to interest himself in the affairs of others. But this accusation is on 
a par with those ungenerous accusations which declare heterodoxy to 


be the shield of profligacy : as if doubts proceeded only from disso- 
lute habits. How unselfish Goethe was, those best know who know 
him best j it would be well if we could say so much of many who 
devote themselves to patriotic schemes. Patriotism may be quite as 
selfish as Science or Art, even when it is a devout conviction ; nor is 
it hkely to be less selfish when, as so often happens, patriotism is only 
an uneasy pauperism. 

That Goethe sincerely desired the good of mankind, and that he la- 
boured for it in his way with a perseverance few have equalled, is surely 
enough to absolve him from the charge of selfishness, because his la- 
bours did not take tiie special direction of politics ? What his opinions 
were is one thing, another thing his conduct. Jean Paul says, '^he was 
more far-sighted than the rest of the world, for in the beginning of 
the French Revolution he despised the patriots as much as he did at 
the end." I do not detect any feeling so deep as contempt, either late 
or early ; but it is certain that while Klopstock and others were madly 
enthusiastic at the opening of this terrible drama, they were as madly 
fanatical against it before its close ; whereas Goethe seems to have 
held pretty much the same opinion throughout. It has been finely 
said : '' Toute p^riode historique a deux faces : Pune assez pauvre, 
assez ridicule, ou assez malheureuse, qui est toum^e vers le calen- 
drier du temps ; Fautre grande, efficace, et s^rieuse, qui regarde celui 
de P^temit^." Of no epoch is this more strikingly true than of 
the French Revolution. In it Goethe only saw the temporal aspect ; 
his want of historical philosophy prevented him from seeing the 
eternal aspect. 

There were three principles promulgated by the Republicans, 
which to him were profound absurdities. The first was the doc- 
trine of equality ; not simply of equality in the eye of the law (that 
he accepted), but of absolute equality. His study of Nature, no 
less than his study of men, led him, as it could not but lead him, to 
the conviction that each Individual is perfect in itself, and in so far 
equals the highest; but that no one Individual is exactly like 

Glelch Bei keiner dem Andem ; doch gleich sei Jeder dem H5chsten. 
Wie dae zu machen ? es sei Jeder voUendet in sicli. 

The second revolutionary principle was the doctrine of government 
by the people. He believed in no such governmental power. Even 
when you kill the Eang, he says, you do not know how to rule in 
his place. 

Sie g5nnten Gasar*!! das Beich nicht, 

Und wussten's nicht zu regieren. 


He pointed to the fate of France '^ as a lesson both to governors and 
the governed, but more even for the latter ^han the former. The 
iTilers were destroyed, but who was there to protect the Many against 
the Many ? The Mob became the Tyrant/^ 

Frankreichs traorig Gescliick^ die Qrossen mdgen's bedenken ; 
Aber bedenken furwohr soUen es Kleine nocb mehr. 
QroBse gingen zn Grande : doch wer beschiitzte die Menge 
Gegen die Menge P Da war Menge der Menge Tyrann. 

What wonder then if he felt repulsion to all the ^' Apostles of Free- 
dom^', when on close scrutiny he found they all sought nothing but 
^. licence ? 

i^ Alle Freiheits-Apostel, eie waren mir immer zuwider 

Willktir Bucbte doch nor Jeder am ende fiir sich. 

The third revolutionary principle was, that political freedom is ne- 
cessary to man. In the early days of authorship he had already 
spoken his conviction that such freedom was by no means necessary. 
In Egmont it reappears ; and through life we find him insisting on 
the fact that no man can be free ; the only freedom necessary is that 
which enables each to go about his business in security, to rear 
house and children, to move unconstrained in his small circle. It 
does not seem to occur to him that even this freedom is impossible 
without political freedom. It does not occur to him that police- 
regulations affect the individual, and governmental regulations affect 
the nation.* 

But while he was thus fundamentally opposed to the principles of 
the Revolution, and the government of the Many, it is equally clear 
that he had no sympathy with the Royalists ; that he absolved nei- 
ther their policy nor their acts. The madness of the Terrorists was 
to him no excuse for the duplicity of the Royalists. ^^ No, you are 
not right. No, you must not deceive the Mob, because the Mob is 
wild and foolish. Wild and fooUsh are all Mobs which have been 
duped. Be only iipright with them, and you will gradually train 
them to be men." 

Sage, tbun wir nicht reclit ? Wir miissen den Pobel betrtlgen. 
Sieh' nur, wie ungeschickt, sieh' nur, wie wild er sich zeigt ! — 
Ungeschickt und wild sind alle rohen Betrognen ; 
Seid nnr redlich, nnd so fiihrt ihn zum Menschlichen an. 

Nor was all the wild oratory so irrational in his eyes as the royalists 

* This was Dr. Johnson's opinion : " Sir, I wotdd not give a guinea to live under 
one form of ffoyemment rather than another. It is of no moment to the happiness 
of an individual. Sir, the danger of the abuse of power is nothing to a private 
man. What Frenchman is prevented £rom passing his life as he pleases ?** Boswell, 
chap. xxvi. No one thinks this opinion a proof of Johnson's heartless egoism. 

6 B 


proclaimed it. " These street orators seem to me also mad ; but a 
madman will speak wisdom in freedom, when in slavery wisdom is 


Mir auch scheinen sie toll; doch redet ein Toller 

Weise Spruche, wenn, ach ! Weisheit im Sclaven verstummt. 

To Eckermann he said : ^' A revolution is always the fault of the 
government, never of the people/' 

I might extend these remarks by showing how such political prin- 
ciples naturally grew up in the course of his education, and how he, 
in the forty-third year of his age, was not likely to become an apostle 
of Freedom, or to become deeply interested in political disturbances, 
especially at this period when he had completely emerged fro\ 
the rebellious strivings of his youth, and had settled the aims of 
manhood. But enough has been said to show what his poiition 
truly was ; and the reader who will not accept it with tthat impar- 
tiality which it claims, will certainly not accept it mor» readily, 
because he is told its origin and growth. The American who 
despises the Negro because he is black, will not despise him less on 
learning that the blackness is nothing but a peculiar modification of 
the pigment in the skin. 

Goethe has himself written a diary of the ^' Campaign in France'',* 
and if I had any belief in the reader's following the advice, I would 
advise him to read that work, and save some pages of this volume. 
In well-grounded suspicion that he will do nothing of the kind, I 
select a few details of interest, and string them on a thread of 

The Allies entered France, believing the campaign would be a mere 
promenade. Longwy they were assured would soon surrender, and 
the people receive them with open arms. Longwy did surrender ; 
but the people, so far from showing any disposition to welcome 
them, everywhere manifested the most determined resistance. The 
following passage will let us pretty clearly into the secret of Goethe's 
views. '^ Thus did the Prussians, Austrians, and a portion of the 
French, come to carry on their warlike operations on the French 
soil. By whose power and authority did they this? They might 
have done it in their own name. War had been partly declared 
against them — their league was no secret ; but another pretext was 
invented. They took the field in the name of Louis XVI : they 
exacted nothing, but they borrowed compulsorily. Bans had been 
printed, which the commander signed ; but whoever had them in 

* It has been translated by Mr. Robert Fane. The extracts which follow are 

from this tRiTiBhilion. 


liis possession filled them up at his pleasure, according to circum- 
stances, and Louis XVI was to pay. Perhaps, after the manifesto, 
nothing had so much exasperated the people against the monarchy 
as did this treatment. I was myself present at a scene which I 
remember afi a most tragic onfe. Several shepherds, who had suc- 
ceeded in uniting their flocks, in order to conceal them for safety in 
the forests or other retired places, being seized by some active 
patrols and brought to the army, were at first well received and 
kindly treated. They were asked who were the diflFerent proprietors : 
the flocks were separated and counted. Anxiety and fear, but still 
with some hope, fluctuated